- The White House is proposing a $400-a-week federal unemployment benefit as part of its stimulus package.
- It would be retroactive to September 12, Roll Call first reported.
- There appears to be early agreement among lawmakers and the White House that any federal benefit should pick up where an administration program left off.
- “I think a lot of it is probably cost, and some of it is trying not to interact with a really weird program we don’t fully understand,” unemployment expert Michele Evermore told Business Insider.
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The White House is proposing to restore federal unemployment benefits at $400-per-week as part of its $1.6 stimulus plan offered to Democrats on Wednesday, Bloomberg reported.
The plan would be retroactive to September 12, per Roll Call, which first reported the details of the Trump administration’s spending proposal, and expire on January 1.
It means payments would be dated just over a week after the Federal Emergency Management Administration said it was capping funding for six weeks of $300 jobless benefits for states taking up the federal “Lost Wages” program through September 5. President Donald Trump enacted it in early August through an executive order.
There appears to be early agreement among lawmakers and the White House for the federal government to pick up where FEMA left off. Democrats are proposing reviving a $600 federal benefit that expired in the summer through January 31, making it retroactive to September 6.
Michele Evermore, a senior policy analyst at the National Employment Law Project, said lawmakers are likely trying to avoid technical hurdles that could emerge if payments were retroactive to August, such as a jobless person receiving double the unemployment benefits from overlapping federal programs.
“I think a lot of it is probably cost, and some of it is trying not to interact with a really weird program we don’t fully understand,” Evermore told Business Insider.
She added: “At this point, even small technical difficulties are a really big deal since state systems have been through so much.”
The White House’s unemployment program is still distributing jobless payments in many states, and experts don’t know how many people are receiving them since states aren’t required to report those figures, Evermore said.
Congress and President Trump in March enacted a $600 federal supplement to state unemployment benefits that many experts say helped people buy groceries and pay rent while also propping up the economy. Lawmakers have been fiercely divided on a replacement amount.
Many Republicans argue that the $600 federal payments discourage work among the unemployed, a claim that numerous studies have challenged.
New jobless claims have plateaued in recent weeks, regularly topping 800,000 over six months into the pandemic. Around 26.5 million Americans are receiving unemployment benefits, per Labor Department data.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on Wednesday during a Fox Business Interview that Trump instructed administration negotiators to increase their spending proposal significantly above $1 trillion. It would include a second round of $1,200 direct payments, he said.
Mnuchin and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi have been negotiating for four days.