by Maurie Backman | Jan. 27, 2021
The unemployment crisis is not going away anytime soon. Here's how Biden plans to stay on top of it.
In late 2020, nearly 3 million jobless Americans stopped receiving unemployment benefits when their CARES Act protections ran out. Thankfully, lawmakers passed a second relief measure that called for boosted and extended unemployment benefits through the middle of March. But that still left a lot of people in the lurch for several weeks.
Many Americans don't have a savings account to tap in the absence of a paycheck, and as long as they're out of work, unemployment benefits constitute their sole source of income. In his latest $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief proposal, President Joe Biden is calling for a $400 weekly boost to unemployment benefits. He wants to see those benefits extended through September, as opposed to March. At the same time, the president also wants to avoid a scenario where benefits suddenly run out and people have to scramble to cover basic living costs. To that end, he has a plan. It's called an automatic stabilizer in economic speak, and it may be just the thing that protects the jobless during these trying times.
Biden aims to put unemployment benefits on autopilot, so to speak. Workers will gradually get weaned off of benefits as economic conditions improve. Or, their benefits will get extended, and possibly boosted, if economic conditions get worse.
All told, unemployment benefits -- both supplements and duration -- would be tied to economic data so lawmakers don't have to continuously vote on whether to extend aid. That could, in turn, help avoid scenarios where jobless folks are forced to go weeks without benefits as lawmakers duke it out.
Of course, the downside of automating the process is that it would most certainly increase mandatory federal spending. But given the extreme nature of the coronavirus crisis, it may be necessary.
At a time like this, jobless workers can't afford to go weeks without a check, and having to rely on lawmakers to vote on aid has historically yielded less-than-ideal results. Case in point -- Americans had to wait over six months for a second stimulus check after receiving their $1,200 payments under the CARES Act. The holdup was due to months of fruitless negotiations that often played out in the media like bickering matches. Biden wants to simply take politics out of the equation. His plan would help ensure unemployed workers are adequately protected -- and that decisions surrounding benefits are based on data, not personal opinions.
Furthermore, the president, in his relief package, is pushing for a third round of stimulus checks, this time amounting to $1,400 apiece. If that proposal were to be approved and passed into law quickly, an extra $1,400 could help those who had to take on debt when their unemployment benefits abruptly ended dig out of that hole. Of course, those $1,400 checks, if the president has his way, won't just go to the jobless. Though some lawmakers are insisting that any follow-up stimulus must be more targeted than previous rounds. But either way, it's easy to argue that those who are out of work might need that money the most.
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