Extra unemployment payments should stop in July, Trump adviser says, adding returning workers should get a bonus

Posted Jun 14, 2020

The White House wants to replace the extra $600 in weekly unemployment benefits with a bonus for employees returning to work, a senior economic adviser said Sunday.

Larry Kudlow, director of President Donald Trump’s National Economic Council, said he would not support continuing the $600 payments past their July 31 expiration date.

“The president is looking at a reform measure that will still provide some kind of bonus for returning to work,” Kudlow said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “But it will not be as large, and it will create an incentive to work.”

The House Democrats’ $3 trillion stimulus package would extend the extra unemployment benefits through January 2021 as millions of Americans remain unemployed and businesses only now are reopening their doors.

But Kudlow said he agreed with those who argue that the expanded $600 federal payments on top of the regular state payments act as a disincentive to return to work as some employees could make more money by staying home.

“We’re paying people not to work,” Kudlow said. “It’s better than their salaries would get. And that might have worked for the first couple of months.”

The top Republican on the House Ways and Means Committee, Rep. Kevin Brady of Texas, has proposed a similar bonus plan, extending the federal unemployment benefits for two weeks after a person returned to work.

Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman said it was too early to talk about cutting unemployment insurance payments.

“The one time people want to question where we spend the money is when we spend it on the neediest,” said Watson Coleman, D-12th Dist. “Relief is going to have to last as long as the impact of the pandemic lasts.”

The national unemployment rate dropped to 13.3% in May from 14.7% in April as states relaxed stay at home orders and allowed businesses to reopen under certain conditions. New Jersey’s reopening plan enters its second phase on Monday.

“We are reopening, and businesses are coming back," Kudlow said on CNN. “Therefore, the jobs are coming back. And we don’t want to interfere with that process.”

For the most part, employees must return to work when recalled and lose their unemployment benefits if they refuse to go. Workers who feel unsafe because of the coronavirus and want to remain home and still collect unemployment can appeal to the state Department of Labor and Workforce Development, which said it would handle such requests on a case-by-case basis.

Gov. Phil Murphy last week announced the “One Jersey Pledge,” which set guidelines to protect customers, workers and employers from COVID-19. They include wearing face coverings, washing hands frequently, cleaning high-touch areas frequently, and providing health screenings to employees.

Tom Bracken, president and chief executive of the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce, said the guidance would “enhance the safety of business environments and instill confidence in employees returning to work and customers returning to stores.”

But advocacy groups said the new guidelines didn’t go far enough to protect workers or customers, and renewed their call for Murphy to issue an executive order with strict enforcement of safety regulations.

“The One Jersey Pledge is a completely insufficient measure to protect the health of workers, their families and the public,” said Felix Gallardo, a member of Make the Road New Jersey, an immigrant rights group. “Pledges only go so far as the commitment to enforce them. Workers like me won’t be able to stay healthy on the job unless we can enforce these standards.”

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