Washington, D.C. Capitol Building
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Almost 14 million American workers receive unemployment benefits through programs that expire later this year without action by Congress.
The phasing out of aid would leave many people without income if protections for renters, homeowners and student loan borrowers are to be phased out, unemployment claims rise, and increased Covid-19 infections put more businesses at risk.
"The risk to the economy right now is just too high to take away from people," said Andrew Stettner, senior fellow and unemployment expert at the Century Foundation, a progressive think tank.
CARES Act unemployment
In March, federal legislators strengthened protection for the unemployed through the CARES Act Coronavirus Relief Law.
However, these measures were only temporary. For one, a weekly $ 600 increase in unemployment benefits expired in July. Two more are due to end on the last weekend in December.
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One, called Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, pays benefits to self-employed, gig workers, and freelancers who are normally not eligible for state unemployment insurance. According to figures released by the Ministry of Labor on Wednesday, around 9 million workers received this aid in early November.
The other, Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation, pays up to 13 additional weeks of unemployment benefits beyond the states traditional 26 weeks (or six months). Around 4.5 million employees receive these benefits, a number that has grown steadily in recent months in the wake of the ongoing health and economic crisis.
Overall, more than half of the total of roughly 20.5 million workers on state and federal unemployment lists would lose their benefits when these programs expire.
Another aid package
Legislators have been arguing for months about the contours of another aid package. Leaders in neither the Democratic nor the Republican parties seem intent on breaking away from their bargaining positions.
Democrats have pushed for a bill with a total cost of north of $ 2 trillion. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., Has proposed a smaller, more targeted bill of $ 500 billion.
Some Republican senators appear to want to expand some of the existing unemployment programs. For example, Senator John Cornyn, R-Texas, said in a tweet Thursday that it was "heartless" to phase out aid to millions.
Congress has not passed an aid law since the CARES Act nine months ago.
Some of the workers receiving pandemic unemployment compensation may continue to receive assistance next year thanks to the expanded benefit programs that exist in high unemployment countries.
However, many states have stopped paying these extended benefits in recent months, which are typically 13 or 20 additional weeks. According to a CNBC analysis of the Department of Labor numbers, more than 411,000 workers in 17 states cannot receive extended benefits because of this.
(As of November 22, these states were: Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Maine, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.)
By the end of the year, the Century Foundation estimates that only 18 states will qualify to pay these extended benefits to the long-term unemployed.