As Congress continues to engage in pointing fingers and hurling unfounded accusations, party politics seems to have greater sway on the future of jobless benefits than the urgent need of an estimated 30 million workers who recently lost $600 in enhanced weekly unemployment assistance that kept them afloat during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The program, which officially ended Friday, July 31, could have been extended had the Democrats and Republicans been willing to work together instead of standing their ground over how and whether to extend the benefits.
Even a short-term fix would have been enough to give American workers hope and relieve the anxiety they’ve faced after shutdowns nationwide began in March. Instead, while millions fear being evicted or losing their homes and find themselves unable to pay for health care, groceries, child care and other essentials, the impasse continues.
Meanwhile, Donald Trump has seemingly gone beyond his constitutional powers with the decision that the federal government will provide $400 for the unemployed with the caveat that states must contribute $100 toward that total benefit. Unfortunately, many states say they simply are unwilling or unable to provide funds to bankroll their portion of the president’s solution.
Most disconcerting, Trump has concluded that the dollar amount for the benefits, $200 less than what millions have been receiving over the past few months and upon which they’ve grown dependent, was determined in order to provide an “incentive” for the unemployed so they’d be more willing to return to work.
There’s no dispute that some workers were receiving more on unemployment than they would have earned had they been working. But we wonder how many Americans found themselves in such a position. Further, given the program being initiated as a short-term fix, renters, homeowners, those with student loans and the unemployed have never believed that the bailout would go on forever. But as COVID-19 continues its onslaught, many businesses still remain shuttered.
Both parties say they’re willing to work toward a compromise but what we see is simply more political grandstanding on both sides of the aisle. With the fall quickly approaching, families with school-age children who may or may not be able to safely return to the classroom don’t need additional reasons to fear the future. They need to be reassured that Congress and the president will move swiftly on their behalf. Contrary to Trump’s tongue-in-cheek remarks, most adults are not relaxing on their couch watching Netflix are not lazy or shiftless adults. Rather, they are living day to day, standing in lines for groceries, making arrangements with utility companies to avoid services being cut off and worried about today and tomorrow.