WASHINGTON, D.C – U.S. Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Mark Warner (D-Virginia) and Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) led 29 of their colleagues Tuesday in urging Senate leaders to include in the next COVID-19 relief package an extension of two financial lifelines for Americans affected by the economic fallout of the COVID-19 crisis.
Currently, the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program – which provides unemployment assistance to domestic workers, freelance workers, contractors and other workers in alternative work arrangements – and the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation program – which temporarily provides a 13-week extension of benefits for those whose regular unemployment benefits have expired but still are struggling to find employment during the pandemic – are set to expire on Dec. 26, one day after Christmas.
These programs are as vital as ever right now, Brown said, with the nation facing more than five times the number of COVID-19 cases as in the spring and with more than twice the number of Americans participating in these programs as in the regular state unemployment system.
“As the virus surges going into the winter months, the loss of benefits at this time is particularly cruel. A recent report from The Century Foundation suggests that nearly 12 million workers could lose coverage once these programs expire over the holiday. In other words, roughly 12 million American workers will lose benefits this season for a job they lost through no fault of their own,” the senators wrote in a letter to Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer. “For many, the knowledge of this benefits cliff will hang over them while they celebrate Christmas morning, share a meal for Christmas dinner or observe other holidays with their families in the middle of what has already been a difficult and tragic year. Those who are socially distancing from their families for their safety as well as the nation’s overall public health will likely experience this loss of federal financial assistance entirely alone.”
In the letter, the senators urged for these programs to be extended with additional weeks of eligibility for workers, noting that approximately 4.4 million workers will have already run out of benefits by the end of the year, with millions more exhausting their benefits next year. This includes workers in the service and arts sectors, among other industries who continue to struggle nearly nine months into the pandemic.
They also stressed the importance of significantly reforming the nation’s unemployment system in the near future so that every American can count on a social safety net during times of need.
Brown continues to call on McConnell and Senate Republicans to help workers and families by extending unemployment insurance programs, including the full additional $600 unemployment insurance benefit that expired in July. Brown has pressed Republicans to reinstate this benefit that struggling Ohio workers relied on to help pay the bills, keep roofs over their families’ heads and put food on the table.