Congress is in negotiations to extend federal unemployment benefits under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act.
Both Democrats and Republicans have put forward proposals to extend benefits with different outcomes. Democrats would rather see $600 in benefits continue until the end of the year, but Republicans want to reduce the benefits to $200 and eventually replace the benefits with a program that would pay workers 70% of the income they collected before they lost their job.
Republicans want to reduce benefits because they are concerned that $600 exceeds the wages of many workers and discourages them from returning to work.
Marta Hurgin works with the Legal Advice and Referral Center in New Hampshire. Hurgin said the myth that people on unemployment benefits are lazy and do not want to work is just wrong.
“Unemployment isn’t a ticket to getting wealthy or rich,” said Hurgin, “It should just allow people to live with dignity and the $600 allowed people to do that.”
She said that it is crucial that benefits continue with a meaningful amount, adding that the $600 benefit had helped people keep up to date with their bills.
“The $600 has been really life changing and life saving for a lot of clients,” said Hurgin.
56-year-old Cherie Greene is a temp worker in Manchester who’s been out of a job since April. She said she started collecting unemployment benefits soon after and the extra boost has been life-changing for her.
“While we had that extra $600, for the first time in my life, I had enough money to start a savings account,” said Greene.
The benefits allowed Greene to save about $5,000, but her savings won’t last her more than two months if she is not able to find a job soon. Her age and preexisting health conditions make her wary of seeking onsite work in the pandemic, but she’s begun to interview for onsite positions because not much remote work is available for her.
She said she would rather have a job to support herself when unemployment benefits end.
The benefits are set to expire at the end of the week, on July 31.