House Speaker Nancy Pelosi held a press conference regarding the extension of increased unemployment benefits on Friday, hours before those benefits are set to expire.
As part of the CARES Act, a coronavirus stimulus bill passed by Congress in March, federal unemployment benefits were increased by $600 a week. At the time, lawmakers thought it was a necessary move as millions lost their jobs amid lockdowns to prevent the spread of the virus.
However, those benefits are set to expire this weekend. And with the unemployment rate still in double digits and the virus spreading at its highest levels yet, Democrats say increased unemployment benefits should be extended.
On Thursday, reports emerged that Republicans were considering extending unemployment benefits, only at a level of about $100 a week. GOP lawmakers are expected to unveil their plan for another round of coronavirus stimulus next week.
Pelosi slammed the Republicans' delay in her press conference Friday, calling it a "dereliction" of their duty. She asked that Republicans "get something on paper" so that Democrats and the American people could see their plan.
House Democrats passed the HEROES Act in May — a $3 trillion bill that would extend the $600 unemployment benefits through the end of the year. It would also extend those benefits to gig workers, independent contractors, and other self-employed people.
Rep. Richard Neal, D-Massachusetts, called on Congress to keep up the "momentum" of the CARES Act by adopting the HEROES Act.
Republicans argue that extending the benefits is too expensive and that the $2,400 payments encourage people not to seek unemployment. However, Rep. Danny Davis, D-Illinois, argued that the benefits were needed because COVID-19 made it too dangerous for some to work, made others unable to work due to lost jobs, and made childcare more difficult due to the closure of schools.