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Trump opposes extending $600 boost in unemployment benefits as jobless levels soar

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  • Trump is reportedly opposed to extending ramped-up unemployment benefits which added $600 to laid-off workers’ weekly checks.
  • The boosted unemployment payments are part of the CARES Act approved in March, and they are set to expire on July 31.
  • But experts say the expiration of the initiative would amount to a significant pay reduction for millions of laid-off workers while unemployment is soaring to record levels.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

President Trump is reportedly opposed to extending the $600 boost in unemployment benefits past July 31, a move that would drastically cut the incomes of millions of Americans if it expired during the coronavirus pandemic.

The Washington Post reported on Tuesday that Trump expressed his views at a private lunch for Senate Republicans, citing three people familiar with the remarks.

It’s not immediately clear whether Trump favored scaling back the amount paid to laid-off workers or capping it, and The Post reported he didn’t explicitly say whether he would sign a bill that contained a provision to lengthen it.

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The ramped-up unemployment benefits were passed as part of a $2 trillion coronavirus spending package back in March. Under the CARES Act, the federal government added $600 on top of state benefits to unemployment checks. That’s set to expire in late July, though House Democrats are proposing to extend the boosted benefits until January 31.

But Republicans are concerned the generous weekly payments disincentivize work and make it more difficult to reopen the economy. Around half of all US workers are earning more on unemployment than they did at their old positions.

Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina — who previously said Congress would extend the payments “over our dead bodies” — said people shouldn’t be earning more when they are not working.

“He agreed that it is hurting the economic recovery,” Graham told reporters on Capitol Hill, referring to Trump.

Experts, though, are concerned that allowing payments to lapse this summer would significantly reduce the incomes of laid-off workers at a moment when unemployment is soaring, and stymie the economy.

Ernie Tedeschi, a former economist at the US Treasury Department, said allowing the benefits to expire would amount to a pay cut ranging from 50% to 75% for jobless people.

With businesses reopening at reduced capacity and lower staffing levels, the prospect of a tight labor market where employers are scrambling to hire workers is slim in the immediate future.

“It’s increasingly looking like there won’t be enough labor demand to hire them all back at that point,” Tedeschi wrote on Twitter.

Around 36 million Americans have filed for unemployment benefits in the past two months, sending the jobless rate soaring to 14.7% in April, the worst level since the Great Depression. Last month, the economy shed 20.5 million jobs.

Democrats are proposing a $3 trillion coronavirus spending package to pour cash into every corner of the economy, including social programs, and implementing another round of direct payments to mitigate the fallout.

But Republicans are pushing to gauge the effect of current rescue programs and the reopening of state economies on the recovery before embarking on another spending initiative.

The president’s economic advisers are striking an optimistic tone and saying the economy will rebound rather quickly, a perspective in conflict with many outside experts. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office on Tuesday issued new projections estimating that the unemployment rate would stand at 8% at the end of 2021.

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