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Joe Biden Abandons Federal Unemployment Insurance Benefits
Joe Biden

Joe Biden Abandons Federal Unemployment Insurance Benefits

In the political battle over unemployment benefits, President Joe Biden has conceded to Republicans.

Biden stated last month that the additional $300 added to unemployment benefits by the federal government has no “measurable” impact on hiring; however, the president changed his tune on Friday, saying the extra money has been helpful but that it “makes sense it expires in 90 days.”

Millions of workers will receive their final federal benefits this month, as Republican governors in 25 states, claiming that the money has caused a "worker shortage," end the extra $300, as well as separate programs for gig workers and the long-term unemployed.

The White House press secretary, Jen Psaki, said Friday afternoon that governors "have every right" to "refuse" the additional benefits. This is the first time the White House has weighed in on the biggest controversy surrounding the red state cutoffs, which congressional Democrats did not anticipate when they extended the temporary benefits earlier this year.

Labor law experts and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) have argued that federal law requires the Labor Department to ensure that the benefits are paid until they expire in September. Labor Secretary Marty Walsh told Stardia on Thursday that his department was “looking into it,” but Psaki’s statement suggests the White House believes Sanders is incorrect.

Psaki refused to say whether the administration believes the increased federal unemployment insurance is hurting employment levels, calling it a "really difficult thing to analyze." She also stated that the coronavirus remains the most significant impediment to economic recovery.

According to economists and unemployment experts, the benefits had little impact on employment levels in the May jobs report, which came in slightly below expectations but showed larger monthly gains in the job market than in decades prior to the pandemic.

According to a May Quinnipiac poll, 54% of voters, including 54% of independent voters, believed governors cutting unemployment benefits were doing the right thing.

For months, Republicans have chastised Democrats for paying Americans to stay at home, claiming that the aid is stalling economic recovery. (Republicans said the same thing last year when Congress increased weekly benefits by twice as much, but have redacted their statements.)

Last month, Biden gave in to the attacks a little bit, delivering a speech that defended unemployment benefits while also urging Americans to return to work. In that speech, Biden emphasized that workers cannot “game the system” to stay out of work. Meanwhile, the Labor Department said it would “clarify” existing written guidance that “workers may not turn down a job due to a general, non-specific criterion.”

Many Democratic lawmakers had hoped that one of the major domestic policy bills outlined by Biden would include a permanent overhaul of the unemployment insurance system. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), the leading proponent of reforming the state-federal unemployment system, envisions a policy that automatically adds or subtracts benefits based on the unemployment rate, making the benefits levied levied levied levied levied levied levied levied levied levied levie

Although the White House has expressed support for such a change, it has not been prioritized in any of the administration's legislative efforts.

“I've long said that pandemic unemployment programs should be tied to economic conditions on the ground,” Wyden said in a statement to Stardia, adding that “if that had been done in the rescue plan, there wouldn't be these concerns about the arbitrary September cutoff.”

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