Democrats Propose Permanently Boosting Unemployment Benefits

Senators Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) have announced legislation that would set minimum federal standards for unemployment benefits nationwide. The legislation also includes a stipulation that unemployment benefits will receive an extra boost when unemployment is high.

“As we’ve seen the last year, it’s much harder for the unemployment system to work in a crisis when it’s been neglected and sabotaged,” Wyden said in a statement referring to the economic fallout caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. “We can’t fail again to fix it in the wake of the second major economic crisis in 10 years.”

The legislation would allow eligible low and middle-income workers to receive up to 75 percent of the wages they earned when they had stable employment, receiving at least 26 weeks total if the legislation is enacted. The legislation also includes a Jobseeker Allowance to help those who traditionally do not qualify for unemployment, including the self-employed and those who are new to the workforce.

Bennet noted that many states scaled back their unemployment benefits once their respective economies began to improve.

“We dangled some incentives to states to make improvements, but few did,” he said. “States turned around and cut the number of weeks and benefit replacement rates, leaving workers worse off. We just don’t want to see that happen again.”