In late March, Congress approved the CARES Act, which was passed in an effort to keep the economy afloat amid the spread of the coronavirus.
A major component of the CARES Act was a $600 weekly supplement on top of state unemployment benefits. The weekly supplement is slated to continue through the end of July.
With nearly 30 million Americans filing for unemployment in the last two months, unemployment is at its highest level in the last 90 years. While it’s unknown how quickly unemployment will decline as the economy reopens, the likelihood of unemployment figures returning to normal anytime soon is in doubt.
In the coming weeks, Congress will be faced with a decision on whether to extend benefits.
As of now, there is not a push to extend unemployment benefits past the July 31 deadline.
One reason why it might not be extended is over criticism that the program incentivizes unemployment. For many unemployed Americans, the $600 a week supplement on top of state unemployment results in some making more being unemployed than working.
For President Donald Trump, he does not see this completely as a bad thing.
“Basically, we are being generous -- short-term -- with people who have lost their jobs, who lost their jobs and are getting more money than they would have,” Trump said. "A lot of people are saying the job is more important. The employer will not forget that.”
But when asked if he would consider extending benefits, Trump would only say “we’ll see.”
Despite the CARES Act getting near unanimous approval, some in Congress have criticized the bill for giving some unemployed Americans more money than they would have made by remaining employed.
Among those offering criticism is Sen. Lindsay Graham. The South Carolina Republican told the Charleston Post and Courier, “I promise you over our dead bodies will this get reauthorized.”
“My dad owned a bar, a liquor store and a pool room. I have walked in your shoes,” Graham added. “If you pay people $23 an hour not to work, they will take you up on it. It doesn’t mean they’re lazy. It means if you offer them $23 an hour not to work, they’ll probably take that over $17 to go to work.”
But the funding is not indefinite. According to the US Department of Labor, when most employees are called back to work, they will no longer be eligible for the additional $600. That includes those who are concerned about unsafe conditions amid the spread of COVID-19.
But those who can prove they’re at a higher risk could continue collecting the supplement, based on Department of Labor standards.
“As a general matter, you are likely to be eligible for (pandemic assistance) due to concerns about exposure to the coronavirus only if you have been advised by a healthcare provider to self-quarantine as a result of such concerns,” the Department of Labor said. “For instance, an individual whose immune system is compromised by virtue of a serious health condition, and who is therefore advised by a healthcare provider to self-quarantine in order to avoid the greater-than-average health risks that the individual might face if he or she were to become infected by the coronavirus will be eligible for (assistance) if all other eligibility requirements are met.”