Congress must act on unemployment benefit by Friday

Senator Rob Portman urged Congress on Wednesday to reach an agreement on the federal unemployment insurance supplement, and told CNBC that a solution is needed this week.

“If we do nothing because we end up in a partisan stalemate here and both sides go to their corners, the people who get hurt are the workers because the $ 600 will end,” the Ohio Republican said in “Squawk Box.” “There is a cliff and we cannot allow that to happen, so we must do something before Friday.”

In their approximately $ 1 billion coronavirus relief plan released Monday, Senate Republicans proposed a reduced benefit of $ 200 per week through September. The Republican plan proposes replacing it with a different formula that would limit total state and federal unemployment benefits to 70% of lost wages.

The $ 600 per week increase, in addition to statewide benefits, is technically on the books through Friday. But due to a technicality with unemployment programs, states have stopped paying the millions of Americans who receive unemployment benefits.

Republicans contend that the $ 600 weekly benefit, which was instituted as part of the $ 2.2 trillion CARES Act passed in March, may act as a deterrent to some workers returning to work because they could earn more in unemployment insurance than before. of the pandemic.

Democrats in Washington want to extend the $ 600 benefit until at least next year, arguing that assistance is still needed to help laid-off workers deal with the worst economic crisis in the United States since the Great Depression.

Portman’s comments Wednesday came shortly after a new CNBC / Change Research poll of voters in six changing states found that 62% of respondents were in favor of extending $ 600 a week federal unemployment insurance.

Portman, a member of the Senate Finance Committee, said he felt “very strongly” about the need for congressional action this week on improving unemployment

“We cannot afford to go through a period when there is no employment insurance for individuals. $ 600 to zero is not a good option,” Portman said. “But again, there are practical solutions here.”