Treasury Secretary Calls $600 Weekly Unemployment Benefits ‘Ridiculous’

when covid-19 unemployment benefit expire

Getty When does the $600 unemployment benefit expire.

The U.S. Treasury Secretary has labeled the $600 weekly unemployment benefits for COVID-19 “ridiculous.”

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin made the comment on July 25 after emerging from talks with GOP staff at the U.S. Capitol. They’re in negotiations over the details of a second COVID-19 relief plan for the American people.

Millions of Americans were getting the extra $600 unemployment checks that were passed as emergency relief due to the COVID-19 pandemic. They’ve now expired, and people have been waiting to see whether the GOP-controlled Senate will extend the benefits.

There’s good and bad news for people wanting additional checks. Mnuchin made it clear that the $600 figure isn’t going to be extended. However, he did indicate that the checks will likely be extended, just at a smaller amount.

The AP reported that he said the amount will be extended but at a smaller amount because Republicans believe that $600 a week gives people a reason not to return back to work. According to The Washington Post, a narrow relief package might be passed the week of July 27 so that the unemployment benefits, which just expired, don’t lapse for millions of Americans.

Here’s what you need to know:

Republicans Are Concerned the $600 Unemployment Checks Give People an Incentive Not to Work & Want to Cap How Much People Can Get

Getty(L-R) Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and U.S. President Donald Trump attend briefing about the coronavirus outbreak in the press briefing room at the White House on March 17, 2020 in Washington, DC.

Driving Republican concern over the $600 figure: They think it’s too high and thus gives Americans an incentive not to work, and they want to change that calculus.

Mnuchin also appeared on Fox News Sunday and said the Trump administration supports “capping supplemental unemployment insurance in the next stimulus package to replace 70% of individuals’ lost wages,” according to Axios, which added that 31 million Americans are receiving unemployment.

“We want to have something which pays people about 70% wage replacement, which I think is a very fair level. So it’s not a fixed number. It’s something that pays you a percentage of your wages that are lost,” Mnuchin said.

The Washington Post reported that some economists believe that would make the $600 about $200 a week but added that Mnuchin “stressed on Sunday (July 26) it would vary from person to person.”

According to The Associated Press, Mnuchin did reiterate that Republicans intend to send out a second stimulus check for $1,200 to Americans earning less than $75,000, with the checks likely going out in August. People earning up to $99,000 would get checks in lesser amounts.

“We’re prepared to move quickly,” Mnuchin said, according to MyFox8.

Republicans Will Formally Roll Out Their Version of the Package on July 27

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GettyU.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin speaks to members of the White House press corps during a daily briefing at the James Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House August 25, 2017 in Washington, DC.

Mnuchin’s comments over the weekend came as Republicans were expecting to reveal their version of a second relief package on Monday, July 27, according to ABC13. A previous draft plan published by the New York Times did show that they were planning a second round of stimulus checks, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell also has indicated as much. Mnuchin’s comments have answered three questions many people have been waiting for, however: How much will people get and when and what will the eligibility guidelines look like?

The Democratic-controlled House previously passed its own second COVID-19 stimulus relief package. The final version that will reach the American people, though, rests in the hands of the GOP-controlled Senate, which started negotiations over the package in earnest the week of July 20. The Senate goes into recess August 7, so to follow Mnuchin’s promised timeline, the Senate will need to act by that time.

The New York Times obtained a draft summary of the GOP proposal, which is still being debated. Remember that, although the Democratic controlled House approved a package, it has to go through the GOP controlled Senate to become law.

The draft summary says that stimulus checks “will be included” in the Republican version of the second stimulus relief package but that the amount and eligibility criteria are TBA. Trump has voiced support for direct checks.

You can read that summary here.

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