Schakowsky Joins Over 100 Members of Congress Urging Trump Administration to Extend Unemployment Benefits

July 9, 2020
Press Release
Millions of Unemployed Americans Could Lose Benefits July 31st Without Action by Senate Republicans, President

EVANSTON, IL - Today, Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky, a Senior Chief Deputy Whip, joined with over 100 of her House colleagues in sending a letter to President Donald J. Trump urging his administration to extend federal unemployment insurance benefits, which are set to run out at the end of July without action by the White House and U.S. Senate.

The CARES Act extended unemployment insurance by providing an additional $600 weekly federal unemployment benefit for those who lost their job due to the coronavirus pandemic. While the House subsequently passed The Heroes Act that extended unemployment insurance through January 31, 2021, the U.S. Senate has failed to act.

The letter, signed by 110 Members of Congress, says in part:

“It is essential that we extend federal pandemic unemployment compensation before it ends at the end of July. Cutting off enhanced unemployment benefits while the economy is still in crisis would ignore the millions of Americans who are still suffering. We hope that you will support this measure in the weeks ahead.”

The full text of the letter can be found below, and a PDF of the final letter can be found HERE:

The Honorable Donald J. Trump

President of the United States

The White House

1600 Pennsylvania Ave. NW

Washington, DC 20500

 

Dear Mr. President,

 

We write to express our strong support of extending the critical Federal Pandemic

Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) supplement to unemployment benefits. These benefits are

critical to continuing to support hardworking American families impacted by coronavirus.

 

Throughout the pandemic so far, over 130,000 Americans have lost their lives and over 14

million Americans are still out of work, even as we begin to safely reopen our economy. For 16

weeks in a row, the number of U.S. workers applying for unemployment benefits for the first

time has been over one million. According the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the country’s

unemployment rate stands at 11.1 percent— far above 3.6 percent in January 2020, before the

coronavirus spread within the U.S. To put this into perspective, over 5 million Americans who

had jobs when you took office are unemployed today.

 

The coronavirus pandemic—and the subsequent health and economic crisis it created—is far

from over. While the CARES Act extended unemployment insurance by providing an additional

$600 weekly federal unemployment benefit for those who lost their job due to the coronavirus

pandemic, the expanded benefit currently expires at the end of July. The nonpartisan

Congressional Budget Office (CBO) expects the unemployment rate to remain around 10 percent

through the end of 2021. Thus, Americans will continue to need extended unemployment

benefits to weather the pandemic.

 

During a recent House Budget Committee hearing on the economic impacts of the coronavirus,

former CBO Director Doug Elmendorf said, “I think the worst thing you could do is let these

benefits expire at the end of next month.” While the U.S. House of Representatives has acted

with the passage of The Heroes Act to extend unemployment insurance through January 31,

2021, the U.S. Senate has so far failed to act.

 

First and foremost, extended unemployment insurance benefits have helped American workers.

Millions of workers who lost their job or were furloughed due to the global public health crisis,

because of FPUC, were able to continue paying rent, putting food on the table and covering

health care expenses. The Joint Economic Committee (JEC) found that during the pandemic,

unemployed workers receiving unemployment benefits were more likely to be able to afford

unexpected emergency expenses and groceries, compared to those not receiving benefits.

 

FPUC also helps businesses and stimulates the overall economy. The JEC estimated that

extended unemployment benefits supported as many as 2.8 million jobs and reduced the

unemployment by as much as 1.8 percent. The CBO estimated that extending FPUC through

January 31, 2021, would result in greater consumer spending, helping to directly support

businesses as they continue to reopen. Thus, extending unemployment benefits is critical to

stimulating the economy during this economic crisis.

 

Some Republicans have made allegations that unemployment benefits disincentivize work.

Working Americans are not choosing unemployment benefits over returning to work. Rather,

they are choosing to keep themselves and their families safe. In a June Gallup poll, nearly half of

workers reported they were afraid to return to work, for fear of being exposed to COVID-19.

Additionally, the June jobs report debunks the Republican myth that unemployment benefits

disincentivize work. Since April, employment has risen sharply in many industries Republicans

claim compete with extended unemployment insurance benefits, such as the restaurant,

construction and retail industries. This demonstrates that Americans choose to return to work

when businesses reopen and jobs become available again. Furthermore, a recent study from the

Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago found that those collecting unemployment insurance benefits

work harder on their job search and receive better job offers than those who are not collecting

benefits. The truth is that our economy is still is crisis, with permanent job losses continuing to

increase and employment numbers nowhere near pre-coronavirus levels.

 

While the nation as a whole is suffering, certain populations are being hit harder than others. The

unemployment rate for people of color remains higher than the national rate. The unemployment

rates for the African American, Hispanic or Latino and Asian populations, respectively, are 15.4,

14.5 and 13.8 percent. Furthermore, the CBO issued a report illustrating the harmful effects

ending FPUC will have, particularly on communities of color. Our nation is currently reckoning

with deep-rooted racial injustices. These injustices are the reason communities of color

disproportionately feel the health and economic effects of this pandemic and must be addressed.

 

Therefore, it is essential that we extend FPUC before it ends at the end of July. Cutting off

enhanced unemployment benefits while the economy is still in crisis would ignore the millions of

Americans who are still suffering. We hope that you will support this measure in the weeks

ahead.

 

Sincerely,

 

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