Schumer Demands Action on COVID-19 Relief, GOP Mulls Temporary Unemployment Benefit Extension

July 22, 2020 Updated: July 22, 2020

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said Republicans and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) need to act with urgency in light of extended unemployment benefits ending at the end of the month.

On the floor of the Senate, Schumer said that “Leader McConnell at this crucial moment can’t even mention [COVID-19], it shows what a knot the Republicans are tied in,” adding that he mentioned other topics including the National Defense Authorization Act but not the pandemic relief efforts.

A day before that, McConnell said he would introduce a GOP measure “in the next few days” on addressing economic stimulus during the pandemic. July 31 is the end date for the extra $600 per week benefits, although some leaders in Congress suggested that the next stimulus package will not be passed until August.

Schumer said that “as we’re on the edge of so many cliffs,” Congress needs to act quickly and come up with a bill.

Previously, some Republicans have said they don’t support the enhanced unemployment benefits and argued they create a reason for people not to return to work.

“We’re probably in the first week of August before we make this happen,” House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said in an interview on Tuesday, adding that he expects there to be disagreements with Democrats over liability protections and unemployment insurance, which will hold up the process.

But Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) told Bloomberg News on Wednesday that the measure, which was included in the CARES Act passed in March, may be extended.

“Most of us agree that there needs to be something in its place, and most of us also agree that the $600 flat amount for every worker is not a good idea going forward because it’s a disincentive to get back to work,” Portman said. “The better solution would be to get our act together and get something by the end of next week.”

Some Republicans told Bloomberg that they are not clear whether there were any discussions about extending the temporary benefits.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) told the same news outlet on Tuesday he didn’t favor a short-term extension and wants “to give people the security they are not going to be let down and fall through the cracks in September and October.”

House Democrats passed the $3 trillion HEROES Act in May, but Senate Republicans described it as unrealistic and too costly. Republicans, including McConnell, and White House officials have said they want to keep the measure at around $1 trillion, while House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) told reporters earlier this month that it wouldn’t go far enough.

The CARES Act and other bills were passed in an attempt to offset losses suffered during the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus epidemic in the United States.