Sen. Ron Wyden, the top Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee, on Tuesday called on Congress to extend the unemployment benefit in recent coronavirus stimulus legislation that gives unemployed workers an additional $600 in weekly jobless benefits.
"We still have 20 million people plus who are walking on an economic tightrope trying to balance their food bill against the fuel bill, the fuel bill against the rent bill," Wyden told Just the News. "And projections are, for example, that if you don't have this assistance — supercharged unemployment, you will have evictions go through the roof because people can't pay the rent."
Wyden will likely face an uphill challenge in getting the benefit extended past its July end date, considering some Republicans in the GOP-controlled Senate argued that the extra compensation — on top of state weekly unemployment payments — is more than some Americans earned at their jobs before the COVID-19 pandemic.
Republicans have also voiced fiscal concerns about borrowing more money to fund a fourth stimulus package, as the deficit heads toward World War II levels.
Despite these concerns, Wyden said the federal benefit should be continued.
"My first choice is tying benefits to economic conditions on the ground," the Oregon lawmaker said. "And I thought Senator John Thune, Republican of South Dakota, expressing openness to essentially gradually phasing down benefits, apparently discussed it with a publication on the Hill, when the economy improved, and basically that's what I'm talking about."
Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner, MomsRising executive director and CEO, and workers from Pennington, N.J., and St. Augustine, Fla., joined Wyden on the call to support extending the benefit.