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GOP senator urges Congress to pass unemployment benefit replacement by Friday

1 month ago 11

Sen. Rob Portman on Wednesday urged Congress to come to an agreement on the federal unemployment insurance supplement, telling CNBC that a solution needs to be in place this week. 

"If we do nothing because we end up in a partisan gridlock here and both sides go to their corners, the people who get hurt are the workers because the $600 will end," the Ohio Republican said on "Squawk Box."  "There's a cliff, and we can't let that happen so we need to do something before Friday." 

In their roughly $1 trillion coronavirus relief plan released Monday, Senate Republicans proposed a reduced benefit of $200 a week through September. The GOP plan then proposes to replace it with a different formula that would cap total state and federal unemployment benefits at 70% of lost wages. 

The $600-per-week boost — on top of state-level benefits — is technically on the books until Friday. But because of a technicality with unemployment programs, states have stopped paying it out to the millions of Americans receiving jobless benefits. 

Republicans contend the $600 weekly benefit, which was instituted as part of the $2.2 trillion CARES Act passed in March, can act as a deterrent for some workers to return to the job because they might make more on unemployment insurance than before the pandemic. 

Democrats in Washington want to extend the $600 benefit at least into next year, arguing the assistance is still necessary to help laid-off workers weather perhaps the worst economic crisis in the U.S. since the Great Depression. 

Portman's comments Wednesday came shortly after a new CNBC/Change Research poll of voters in six swing states found that 62% of respondents were in favor of extending the $600-per-week federal unemployment insurance. 

Portman, a member of the Senate Finance Committee, said he felt "very strongly" about the need for congressional action this week on the unemployment enhancement 

"We cannot allow us to go through a period where there is no employment insurance going out to people. Six hundred dollars to zero is not a good option," Portman said. "But again, there are practical solutions here." 

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