Watch a video of Bennet’s remarks and questions for Scalia HERE
Washington, D.C. – Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet at a Senate Finance Committee hearing yesterday on unemployment insurance (UI) questioned Labor Secretary Eugene Scalia on the Trump Administration’s threat to take away the $600 weekly benefit that has prevented severe hardship for American workers who have become unemployed as a result of the economic fallout from the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) crisis.
Due in part to Bennet’s work on the Finance Committee, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act expanded unemployment benefits to cover almost 10 million self-employed workers, gig workers, and others usually left behind, and added $600 per week to the normal unemployment benefit for the 30 million workers claiming benefits. Right now, 17% of American families can’t cover three months of basic expenses, without the added $600 per week benefit that number could climb to 43%. Today, nearly 10% of Americans can’t make rent, without the added benefit that number could reach 30%.
“The 600 dollar weekly benefit has prevented a level of severe hardship that it’s almost impossible to comprehend,” said Bennet in the Finance Committee hearing. “It paid the rent and prevented evictions. It’s kept food on the table, so families don’t go hungry. It’s kept the lights on and paid for internet, so kids can have access to learn. And it’s been an essential lifeline to families in the middle of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.”
In his remarks, Bennet called for passage of his proposal with U.S. Senator Jack Reed (D-R.I.) and U.S. Representative Don Beyer (D-Va.), the Worker Relief and Security Act, to tie expanded unemployment benefits to the current public health emergency and economic conditions, instead of the current arbitrary cut-off date of July 31.
“I believe that it was a mistake for us to tie it to a date certain,” continued Bennet in his exchange with Scalia. “I think what we should do is tie it to the economic conditions that the country is facing and that our workers are facing so that when the economy…is going up, the benefit is going down, when we’re doing worse, the opposite would be true. And I hope you’ll work with the committee to design something rational like that, because having it just end on a date certain is going to be very cold comfort to millions of people in this country.”
The Worker Relief and Security Act would use automatic triggers to ensure that assistance continues to flow to workers for the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting economic crisis even without action from Congress.
In March, Bennet also unveiled a sweeping proposal to strengthen and modernize UI so that it better supports Americans with targeted, timely, and comprehensive assistance when the economy deteriorates.
Bennet’s plan to reform UI will:
- Expand eligibility for regular UI and standardize the benefit amount individuals receive across states; and
- Help stabilize the economy by providing automatic and extended UI benefits at the first sign of economic deterioration.
Coloradans seeking unemployment benefits should visit: https://www.colorado.gov/pacific/cdle/unemployment.