GOP senator urges Congress to cross unemployment profit substitute by Friday

Sen. Rob Portman on Wednesday urged Congress to come to an agreement on the federal unemployment insurance supplement, telling CNBC that a solution needs to be in place this week. 

“If we do nothing because we end up in a partisan gridlock here and both sides go to their corners, the people who get hurt are the workers because the $600 will end,” the Ohio Republican said on “Squawk Box.”  “There’s a cliff, and we can’t let that happen so we need to do something before Friday.” 

In their roughly $1 trillion coronavirus relief plan released Monday, Senate Republicans proposed a reduced benefit of $200 a week through September. The GOP plan then proposes to replace it with a different formula that would cap total state and federal unemployment benefits at 70% of lost wages. 

The $600-per-week boost — on top of state-level benefits — is technically on the books until Friday. But because of a technicality with unemployment programs, states have stopped paying it out to the millions of Americans receiving jobless benefits. 

Republicans contend the $600 weekly benefit, which was instituted as part of the $2.2 trillion CARES Act passed in March, can act as a deterrent for some workers to return to the job because they might make more on unemployment insurance than before the pandemic. 

Democrats in Washington want to extend the $600 benefit at least into next year, arguing the assistance is still necessary to help laid-off workers weather perhaps the worst economic crisis in the U.S. since the Great Depression. 

Portman’s comments Wednesday came shortly after a new CNBC/Change Research poll of voters in six swing states found that 62% of respondents were in favor of extending the $600-per-week federal unemployment insurance. 

Portman, a member of the Senate Finance Committee, said he felt “very strongly” about the need for congressional action this week on the unemployment enhancement 

“We cannot allow us to go through a period where there is no employment insurance going out to people. Six hundred dollars to zero is not a good option,” Portman said. “But again, there are practical solutions here.” 

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