Enhanced unemployment benefits to expire on Friday: WH official

A senior White House official has said that the enhanced federal unemployment benefits that millions of Americans rely upon will formally expire on Friday as Republicans and Democrats remain far apart on the next COVID-19 relief bill.

Following a meeting with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows told reporters on Wednesday that “enhanced unemployment insurance provisions will expire”, reports Xinhua news agency.

Meadows also said that Pelosi and Schumer have opposed the idea of moving a stand-alone short-term extension of the unemployment benefits to avoid the fiscal cliff, as proposed by some Republicans.

As part of the $2.2 trillion coronavirus relief bill passed in March, Congress agreed to provide $600 federal unemployment benefits per week on top of state unemployment benefits, which are set to expire at the end of July.

Senate Republicans have proposed slashing the federal unemployment benefits to $200 through September, giving an unemployed worker about 70 per cent of previous wages when combined with state benefits, while Democrats want to maintain the current level of benefits through January.

“We don’t know why the Republicans come around here with a skinny bill that does nothing to address… We’re not accepting that,” Pelosi told reporters on Wednesday after the meeting.

While warning that a recent resurgence in COVID-19 cases were starting to weigh on the US’ economic recovery, Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell said that “there is a need for some additional fiscal support”.

Many Americans that were laid off during the pandemic are going to need support “if they’re going to be able to pay their bills to continue spending money to remain in their current rental house or apartment or house if they own it”, Powell said on Wednesday.