Republicans blamed for disarray as unemployment benefits set to expire

Washington: US Congressional Democrats have blamed the Republicans for their “months-long disarray and delay” as the enhanced federal unemployment benefits are set to expire in a few days.

“This weekend, millions of Americans will lose their Unemployment Insurance, will be at risk of being evicted from their homes, and could be laid off by state and local government, and there is only one reason: Republicans have been dithering for months while America’s crisis deepens,” House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer said in a joint statement on Friday.

“We had expected to be working throughout this weekend to find common ground on the next COVID response package. It is simply unacceptable that Republicans have had this entire time to reach consensus among themselves and continue to flail,” the statement said.

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Senate Republicans and President Donald Trump’s administration have reached an agreement in principle on the next COVID-19 relief package, but the final proposal will be released next week as the latter has requested additional time to review the fine details, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Thursday.

As part of the $2.2 trillion coronavirus relief bill passed in March, Congress had agreed to provide extra $600 unemployment benefits per week, which are set to expire at the end of this month.

While Democrats desired to extend the extra $600 unemployment benefits through January 2021, the White House and Republicans held an opposite view, arguing that it has created a financial disincentive for people to return to work.

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Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on Thursday that the administration will replace it with a roughly 70 per cent match of a worker’s wages before they were laid off.

“As we’ve said before, we’re not going to continue within its current form because we’re not going to pay people more money to stay at home than work, but we want to make sure that the people that are out there that can’t find jobs do get a reasonable wage replacement, so it will be based on approximately 70 percent wage replacement,” Mnuchin said in an interview with CNBC.

US lawmakers are under immense pressure to craft a new fiscal package as a resurgence of COVID-19 cases across the country threatens to derail the nascent economic recovery.

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