Biden faces backlash over ‘shameful’ surrender to GOP governors as they end unemployment lifelines

Biden administration officials publicly signaled on Friday they had no plans to fight as Republican governors in 25 states prematurely cut emergency unemployment programs, snatching lifelines from millions of unemployed and depriving local economies of billions of dollars.

In the wake of a solid but a weaker-than-expected employment report – which showed the United States created nearly 560,000 jobs in May – President Joe Biden Told to reporters that it “makes sense” that the federal unemployment increase of $ 300 per week expires across the country in September, although he acknowledged that “we are going to run into obstacles along the way” to recovery economic.

“Cutting off adequate supports for these workers to try and force them to accept any available job is cruel.
—David Cooper, Institute for Economic Policy

White House National Economic Council director Brian Deese echoed the president, saying it was “appropriate” for improved unemployment benefits to end in September.

Press secretary Jen Psaki, meanwhile, told a briefing on Friday that Republican governors “have every right” to prematurely end federal unemployment programs that were approved under the CARES Act. last year to help workers overcome the pandemic-induced economic crisis.

‘Shameful’, progressive activist Jonathan Cohn tweeted in response to Psaki’s comments, which came as the economy remains nearly eight million jobs below pre-pandemic levels.

More than two dozen Republican governors recently announced that instead of waiting for the official September 6 expiration date, they were removing the $ 300 per week increase in UI starting in mid-June. . Twenty-one Republican-led states are also ending emergency benefits for the long-term unemployed and concert workers.

GOP leaders justified their potentially devastating actions by claiming that rising unemployment benefits are holding back hiring – a narrative that experts have dismissed as unfounded and simplistic, given other potential factors such as lack of child care, low wages and coronavirus-related health issues.

White House officials have previously rejected the right-wing narrative; last month, Biden mentionned there was “nothing measurable” to indicate that unemployment benefits discouraged people from returning to the labor market. But they refused to push back again on Friday.

“I would leave it up to you and your outside analysts to decide if this is an important factor,” Psaki told reporters.

Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) And labor law experts from the National Employment Law Project recently argued that under the CARES Act, the Biden administration is legally obligated to continue to distribute unemployment benefits emergency regardless of Republican governors. actions, which could affect more than four million workers.

But officials in the Biden administration never responded to Sanders’ letter detailing that argument, choosing instead to anonymously tell the media that they are powerless to arrest Republican governors.

“There is nothing we can do,” said an official Told CNN last month.

Progressives were quick to express their outrage on Friday at the Biden administration’s refusal to defend emergency unemployment programs, which have helped millions of unemployed meet basic expenses and supported economic recovery. Now, about 15 million people in the United States receive benefits from federal unemployment programs approved in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

“You can’t cut people’s temporary lifeline when they still need it to stay afloat,” tweeted Claire Guzdar, Director of Campaigns and Partnerships at Groundwork Collaborative. “The fight doesn’t know you’ve got a September 6 deadline, you know? Your bills don’t go away, your rent isn’t paid, all the stress of a year of unemployment isn’t over. rescue when people aren’t drowning. “

Rachel Deutsch, worker justice activist at the Center for Popular Democracy, called the Biden administration’s stance on emergency unemployment benefits “appalling” and said the White House “sides with employers who want to force people into bad jobs.”

“Some will be forced into abject poverty because no deprivation can make them work at the moment,” Deutsch added, citing testimonies of unemployed people unable to find jobs or unable to work due to family circumstances.

Montana unemployed man identified as Emily mentionned the medical team caring for her terminally ill, disabled seven-year-old son “told me to keep him at home until he can get the vaccine.”

Unemployment insurance “helped us keep going so that I could choose the health and safety of my son and prevent the two children from getting sick.”

Once the 25 Republican-led states end emergency unemployment programs, millions of jobless workers will be left with paltry state benefits or, in the case of temporary workers and the long-term unemployed, no benefit.

Like David Cooper of the Economic Policy Institute highlighted last week, “Almost all of the states that cut unemployment insurance still have far fewer jobs than before the pandemic. “

“Those who still depend on these programs are probably those who need them the most – the people who have the most difficulty finding suitable work or who face significant constraints in their ability to return to work due to family responsibilities, health issues or other factors, ”Cooper said. Noted. “Cutting off adequate supports for these workers to try and force them to accept any available job, even if it is poorly paid, high risk, unsuitable for their skills or incompatible with their responsibilities at home, is cruel and not in the long-term best interests of a state’s workers or businesses. “

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