President Donald Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell both said late last month that they support allowing the temporary $600-per-week increase in unemployment benefits under the CARES Act to expire at the end of July.
But that decision would be extremely unpopular with the American public, according to a new Washington Post/ABC News poll.
The survey found that found that 58% of Americans—including 60% of Independents and 75% of Democrats—support extending the temporary increase in unemployment benefits past July 31, when the additional payments are set to end without action from Congress.
The poll also found that 57% of Americans believe that controlling the spread of Covid-19 should take priority over reopening the U.S. economy.
Enhanced unemployment benefits have served as an economic lifeline for tens of millions of people in the U.S. who have lost their jobs due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Last month, House Democrats passed a bill that would extend the boosted unemployment benefits through January 2021—but the legislation is likely going nowhere in the Republican-controlled Senate. In a private call with House Republicans on May 20, McConnell vowed that the $600 increase in weekly unemployment payments "will not" be in the next coronavirus stimulus legislation.
Ernie Tedeschi, a former Treasury Department economist, estimated last month that "unemployed workers will effectively get a pay cut of 50-75% overnight" if enhanced unemployment benefits are not extended past the end of July.
According to the U.S. Department of Labor, more than 40 million Americans have filed for unemployment benefits since mid-March. Heidi Shierholz, senior economist and director of policy at EPI, warned in a blog post last Thursday that "the unemployment situation is going to get worse before it gets better, and unemployment benefits applications will continue to flood in."
"Policymakers need to do more," wrote Shierholz. "The across-the-board $600 increase in weekly unemployment benefits, which was one of the most effective parts of the CARES Act, should be extended well past its expiration at the end of July—until unemployment is falling rapidly and is at a manageable level."