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Unemployment benefits could increase by $300 per week: Democrats push for major enhancement into 2022

Unemployment benefits could be increasing by $300 per week again if lawmakers in Congress have their way. The progressive wing of the Democratic Party is pushing members of Congress, including leadership, to include an unemployment expansion in the $3.5 trillion tax and spending package.

A total 13 lawmakers wrote a letter to Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer calling for relaunch and expansion of the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance. “The current state of the unemployment system is a threat to all communities,” they wrote. “Especially black and brown communities. We strongly urge Congress to include such improvements before the Build Back Better Act comes for a vote in the House and Senate.”

Opponents of Pandemic Unemployment Assistance argued that it kept people out of the workforce — a matter that was not only debated, but subject to study throughout the summer as some states ended the unemployment enhancements early.

Among the lawmakers who signed the letter were Cori Bush, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Jerrold Nadler, Jamie Raskin, Mondaire Jones, and Ilhan Omar.

The added unemployment benefits that were enacted in the two previous direct aid relief bills in 2020 and 2021 expired on September 6. The most recent version of unemployment enhancement included an additional $300 per week to individuals who were unemployed. It also extended unemployment to workers who otherwise wouldn’t qualify for traditional jobless benefits.

Democrats opted against extending the benefits before they expired. Mainly due to debate about their necessity. 

There are also calls for the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance to be extended for a set period of time, as a means to bypass state opt-outs. One concern though for supporters of expanded unemployment benefits would be state moves to reduce benefits if the federal government steps in with an enhancement.

The current call for expansion timeline is around February 2022.

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