What You Need to Know About the U.S. Congress’ New COVID-19 Relief Bill

To tackle the soaring unemployment rate in the U.S. as the states struggle to combat the deadly COVID-19 virus, the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation Program (FPUC) was introduced to provide an additional $600 to families who qualify for unemployment compensation. However, as the expiration date for the FPUC nears, families across the nation will continue to face uncertainty and financial hardship without an extension from Congress.

As the temporary Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation Program came to an end this past weekend, the U.S. Congress remains divided on pursuing a new relief bill. The FPUC is a vital part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Impact Act (CARES) enacted as a response to rising numbers of layoffs amidst the pandemic and provides a source of minimal financial stability to over 25 million American households. 

A possible extension of the program comes at the cost of potentially lessening the enhancement benefit amount to $100 per week, approximately an 80% cut from the original amount. Mitch Connell, the Senate Majority leader, assures that a Republican new relief bill would be unveiled shortly in counterproposal to the $3 trillion bill passed by Democrats in May. 

Moreover, Senate Republicans push for the President to abandon a tax cut while expressing concern for how continuing enhanced unemployment benefits may disincentivize unemployed Americans to return to work. In a similar fashion, businesses worry about bringing back workers since the aid generated from unemployment is more than individuals make normally with their wages. 

On the other hand, Democratic chairman of the House, Richie Neal, rejects the idea of extending benefits that are lessened. Neal says, “People need the sustenance of day-to-day life … the recovery is going to be slow,” and he goes on to point out how maintaining the same relief bill will help further fuel the economy. 

Without a clear vision of the economy in the foreseeable future, lawmakers will be forced to make a decision between abandoning the entirety of an enhanced relief plan or extending the plan with lowered unemployment benefits. 

This article was jointly reported by Fion Huang currently based in Chicago. Please send an email to fsh250@nyu.edu to get in touch.
Photo Credit
: Alex Edelman/AFP Via Getty Images

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