AOC Calls For an Extension of Enhanced Unemployment Benefits

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Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (N.Y.-D) has called for the unemployment programs introduced under the March 2020 CARES Act to be extended through January 2022. AOC told viewers during a virtual town hall Tuesday that she is seeking to extend the benefits that expired this Labor Day. If the bill passes, the enhanced unemployment benefits would be delivered retroactively from Sept. 6 and extended through Feb. 1, 2022.

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“I’ve been very disappointed on both sides of the aisle that we’ve just simply allowed pandemic unemployment assistance to completely lapse, when we are clearly not fully recovered from the consequences of the pandemic,” Ocasio-Cortez told the virtual crowd. However, she voiced doubts about whether or not the legislation would pass.

Does the U.S. Need Extended Unemployment Benefits?

In August, the U.S. jobs report showed just 235,000 positions added, below the 720,000 jobs that were expected and far below the 943,000 jobs added in July, which contributed to a relatively low 5.4% unemployment rate.

The surge in COVID cases brought on by the Delta variant has slowed hiring, especially in the leisure and hospitality sector, which lost 29,000 jobs in August. Meanwhile, health care concerns and a lack of child care have slowed the return to work for many Americans.

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Where Do State Programs Come In?

Last month, Secretary of the Treasury Janet L. Yellen and Secretary of the Department of Labor Martin J. Walsh called on states and local governments to tap into the $350 billion in American Rescue Plan State and Local Fiscal Relief Funds to “provide assistance to unemployed workers, including by continuing to provide additional weeks of income support to workers whose benefits expire on September 6th and to workers outside of regular state UI programs.”

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Find: States That Ended Unemployment Benefits Early Saw a $2 Billion Drop in Spending, New Study Says

However, CNBC reported that many states shared that they have “no intention of extending or providing additional benefits on their own.” That’s where AOC’s bill, if passed, would come in to help.

Additionally, CNBC reported that roughly 9.4 million people who were receiving Pandemic Unemployment Assistance or Pandemic Unemployment Emergency Compensation did not qualify for their state’s unemployment benefits.

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