Roughly 3.6 million out-of-work Americans will forgo a total of $21.7 billion in benefits as a result of the state actions, according to an analysis by The Century Foundation. Texas, Indiana and South Carolina are among those terminating the pandemic jobless programs early.
“There is nothing we can do,” the official said, adding that the department has tried to figure out a solution. “Taking away their lifeline isn’t going to help anything.”
The enhanced payments — which Congress first approved in its massive coronavirus relief plan in March 2020 and twice extended — are keeping Americans from returning to the labor market, the governors say. At least four states will offer return-to-work bonuses instead.
In addition to providing the $300 weekly supplement, lawmakers expanded benefits to freelancers, the self-employed, independent contractors and certain people affected by the pandemic and extended the duration of payments for those in the regular state unemployment program.
Those collecting regular state benefits, which typically last 26 weeks, will continue to receive those payments but will not get the $300 boost. However, those in the other two programs — the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance and Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation programs — will lose all their benefits.
The Labor Department is likely to release a letter on Friday outlining how the federal government is unable to counter the decisions by the Republican governors, the administration official said. The letter is a response to Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and a labor advocacy group, both of which have urged the Biden administration to keep offering the benefits.
Sanders on Thursday sent a letter to Labor Secretary Marty Walsh asking him to commit to holding states accountable for their role in administering the benefits.
“The people who claim Americans won’t work even if they find a good and fair opportunity underestimate the American people,” he said.