Washington—Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) today released the following statement on the urgent need to renew unemployment benefits, which expired last month:
“By failing to bring another coronavirus economic relief bill up for debate, Senate Republicans and the White House are threatening the financial security of more than 30 million Americans – including 6 million in California – who rely on unemployment assistance to pay rent, cover their bills and buy food.
“Democrats fought to secure a provision in the CARES Act, which passed in March, that provides an additional $600 per week in federal unemployment benefits to those laid off because of the coronavirus. The goal was to help maintain salary levels for workers who had nowhere else to turn for employment.
“When the additional benefits expired, that lifeline was lost – and the ramifications will be dire. In my home state of California, unemployment benefits average only $340 per week, an annualized salary of less than $18,000. That won’t keep most families above the poverty line, especially in high-costs states.
“This problem is compounded by the fact that many states, including California, aren’t able to quickly change benefit levels. If Congress were to renew additional federal unemployment assistance using a different formula than the CARES Act, the head of California’s unemployment agency last week said it could take as long as 20 weeks for benefits to reach workers, a problem many states share.
“There is a moral argument to extending these benefits. Unemployment insurance is meant to tide workers over until they can find new jobs. But due to the pandemic, those jobs have been wiped away. Without even the potential for work, the federal government has an obligation to help people afford food, rent and other necessities.
“There is also an economic argument to extending benefits. The expanded federal unemployment assistance injects $18 billion into the economy each week, money that goes to people who need it and spend it. Those funds help prevent a much worse economic collapse. The Economic Policy Institute estimates that cutting off the extra benefits risks losing an additional 5 million jobs, including more than 800,000 in California.
“It has been three months since the Senate returned from its coronavirus shutdown and 10 weeks since the House passed a relief bill that included an unemployment benefit extension until January. In that time, Majority Leader McConnell has refused to bring up any significant legislation related to this devastating pandemic.
“It’s time for Senate Republicans and the president to get off the sidelines and recognize that their inaction is endangering millions of families. Extend these benefits now and let the Senate debate a new recovery bill to help millions of American families.”