The U.S. Capitol Rotunda The U.S. Capitol Rotunda (Credit: Diego M. Radzinschi)

Republicans said Wednesday afternoon that they were considering extending the enhanced unemployment insurance benefit “at a dramatically reduced level of $400 per month, or $100 a week, through the rest of the year,” CNBC reported.

The current federal benefit of $600 per week is set to expire at the end of July. The payment is in addition to state jobless benefits.

Republicans “have had months to propose a plan for extending supercharged unemployment benefits, and they still have nothing to offer,” Senate Finance Committee ranking member Ron Wyden, D-Ore., said in a statement Tuesday.

Republicans, Wyden said, “have not reached out to Democrats, and are simply trying to deflect blame. I proposed a plan to extend the $600 boost and tie it to economic conditions back in May and [Senate Minority] Leader [Chuck] Schumer and I introduced legislation weeks ago. Republicans meanwhile are fighting amongst themselves while millions of families panic about whether they’ll be able to pay August rent.”

State System Upgrades

On Wednesday, Wyden introduced the legislation to incentivize states to upgrade what Wyden said is their “outdated unemployment insurance infrastructure.”

The Unemployment Insurance Technology and Accessibility Act would create a $500 million Labor Department grant program to provide states with funds to upgrade their technology. States that do not meet accessibility criteria within two years would be required to repay the grant.

The bill is co-sponsored by Sens. Dick Durbin, D-Ill.; Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio; Chris Van Hollen, D-Md.; Bob Menendez, D-N.J.; Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev.; and Jacky Rosen, D-Nev.

‘Need to Pass Something’

Greg Valliere, chief U.S. policy strategist for AGF Investments, said in his Wednesday morning email briefing that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell “needs to write a bill, fast. That’s because his GOP colleagues are simply dealing with trial balloons and vague proposals; they need to pass something and begin negotiations with the Democrats, who sense a political opening.”

A new round of stimulus won’t happen until August, Valliere said, “which means the shaky economy won’t get a booster shot until next month. A major obstacle, ironically, is that Republicans can’t agree among themselves; a fight with Democrats is several days away.”

Meanwhile, President Donald Trump has backed off his threat to veto a bill that doesn’t include a payroll tax cut. “It appears that Trump would sign a bill without a payroll tax cut, which he said just days ago must be in the final measure,” Valliere said.

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