Sen. Wyden: One $600 stimulus check, without robust unemployment insurance, would be a 'disaster'
Sen. Ron Wyden (D., Ore.) says the latest stimulus offer from the White House — which includes smaller stimulus checks but no enhanced unemployment benefits —is not enough to help struggling workers get through the pandemic.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin proposed a $916 billion offer earlier this week, that included $600 stimulus checks but did not include a weekly unemployment insurance boost.
“This idea of Trump, again, trying to find something that sounds good — like he's going to step in and give a stimulus check — but then he's going to go off and cut unemployment. That would be a disaster for workers,” said Wyden in an interview with Yahoo Finance Live.
According to the Washington Post, Mnuchin defended his proposal, saying the stimulus checks would better revive the economy.
“By sending out checks, we’re putting money into the economy for people. This will have the impact of creating demand, which will have the impact of creating jobs. We want to get people their jobs back,” Mnuchin said.
The $908 billion bipartisan plan that lawmakers are trying to finalize, proposes enhanced benefits of $300 per week — but it does not include direct payments for Americans.
Earlier this week Wyden signed a letter with Sen. Bernier Sanders (I., Vt.) and several other Democratic senators, demanding stimulus checks be included in any coronavirus relief package — but the senators want to see both enhanced unemployment benefits and direct payments.
“We’ve got to get resources into the pockets of people,” said Wyden. “I do think if I had to choose the best way to go, it is the expanded unemployment.”
Wyden, the top Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee, has been pushing to bring back the $600-a-week benefit increase that was part of the CARES Act but expired earlier this year. He has also unveiled legislation to extend pandemic unemployment insurance programs that will expire at the end of the year.
Those programs allow for extra weeks of benefits and ensure nontraditional workers are eligible.
“That's a lot better than one-time kind of arrangements,” said Wyden.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has yet to endorse the bipartisan plan, and has instead pushed a smaller relief package.
“He wants to get help to his supporters for these liability waivers, which frankly are going to put workers, in some instances, at risk of additional health problems,” said Wyden. “Then he wants to sabotage any kind of relief for workers. What we ought to be doing is working in a bipartisan way.”
Earlier this week McConnell suggested dropping both state and local aid and liability protections — the two most controversial points in the negotiations. Democrats quickly shut down that idea, saying cities and states facing massive budget deficits need more money to avoid laying off essential workers and cutting services.
“We've got to once again, bring people together and the Mitch McConnell playbook that he's using right now to attack the bipartisan effort isn't going to do it,” said Wyden.
Jessica Smith is a reporter for Yahoo Finance based in Washington, D.C. Follow her on Twitter at @JessicaASmith8.
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