WASHINGTON (AP) — The viral pandemic’s resurgence caused the number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits to rise last week for the first time in nearly four months, evidence of the deepening economic pain the outbreak is causing.
The increase in weekly jobless claims to 1.4 million served to underscore the outsize role the unemployment insurance system is playing among the nation’s safety net programs — just when a $600 weekly federal aid payment for the jobless is set to expire at the end of this week.
White House officials and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Tuesday their goal is to reach an agreement on a new coronavirus stimulus plan by the end of next week, a deadline that leaves them little margin for error with expanded unemployment benefits set to expire.
They must still bridge numerous differences, and White House officials and Republicans aren’t even united in their approach.
To try to resolve some issues, top administration officials arrived on Capitol Hill Tuesday to begin negotiations. Some of President Trump’s priorities in the next coronavirus spending package met with bipartisan resistance. Numerous Senate Republicans have dismissed certain White House’s demands, such as a payroll tax cut, with one member referring to idea as only likely to survive in a “first draft.”
Grocery store chain Trader Joe’s says it is changing its ethnic food packaging after more than 1,400 people signed a petition describing brands such as “Trader Ming’s” and “Trader Jose’s” as racist.The popular food store is the latest U.S. company to announce changes in product labeling that critics say are akin to racial stereotyping.
Tens of millions of Americans who lost their jobs because of the pandemic are now in danger of having their incomes slashed for a second time. The supplemental unemployment benefits of $600 per week that Congress approved four months ago are set to expire in less than two weeks — threatening to hurt strapped households and the U.S. economy, as billions of dollars’ worth in spending suddenly comes to a halt.
As Congress comes back into session this week, lawmakers will debate whether to extend the supplemental benefits, which have been a lifeline for more than 30 million people across the United States.
“The extra $600 from the government has obviously helped me tremendously,” said bartender Courtney Woodruff, who lost her job at a Denver brewpub. “I don’t really spend a lot. My money is going towards rent and food right now.
“While ordinary unemployment benefits usually cover just a fraction of a worker’s lost wages, the additional $600 per week from the federal government was designed to fully replace the average worker’s missing paycheck.
Because of job losses between February and May of this year, 5.4 million laid-off workers became uninsured. These recent increases in the number of uninsured adults are 39% higher than any annual increase ever recorded. The highest previous increase took place over the one-year period from 2008 to 2009, when 3.9 million nonelderly adults became uninsured.These record-breaking increases in the number of uninsured have taken place during the country’s worst public-health crisis in more than a century and the sharpest and deepest economic downturn since World War II. Nevertheless, no federal COVID-19 legislation signed into law has attempted to restore or preserve comprehensive health insurance. Now is the time to fill that gap by including protections for comprehensive health insurance in the next COVID-19 bill.