March 30 (UPI) — A group of Senate Democrats sent a letter to President Joe Biden on Tuesday asking him to include recurring relief payments and extended jobless benefits in his economic recovery plan.
The letter, led by Senate finance committee Chairman Ron Wyden, D-Ore., said the lawmakers were worried about the Sept. 6 expiration of a $300 weekly unemployment supplement. They also said the $1,400 one-time direct payment in the last coronavirus relief bill isn’t enough for Americans hardest hit by the pandemic.
“We urge you to include recurring direct payments and automatic unemployment insurance extensions tied to economic conditions in your Build Back Better long-term economic plan,” the letter read. “This crisis is far from over, and families deserve certainty that they can put food on the table and keep a roof over their heads. Families should not be at the mercy of constantly shifting legislative timelines and ad hoc solutions.”
Democrats are seeking to avoid the scenario that happened in July, when the $600-per-week supplemental jobless benefit expired without a new relief package in place to replace it.
Former President Donald Trump ended up signing an executive order to provide extra $400 unemployment payments after weeks of stalled negotiations between Congress and the White House on a larger stimulus package.
Nearly 700,000 workers filed for new unemployment benefits last week, the lowest weekly figure since the start of the pandemic. The Labor Department said there were 3.9 million continuing claims, with a 2.7% unemployment rate.
The letter — signed by 21 Democrats, including Sens. Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders and Tammy Duckworth — said recurring direct payments are needed in addition to the added unemployment benefits because many Americans didn’t lose their jobs but saw hours or pay grade reduced.
They cited a study by the Urban Institute that said an additional direct payment could keep an additional 6.3 million people out of poverty.
Combining the two measures, they said, increases spending and supports jobs.