Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley says extending the $600 per week unemployment benefit is one of the bigger sticking points in negotiations over the latest COVID-19 relief package in Congress.
While an earlier pandemic relief bill passed unanimously, compromise is slow with this one, according to Grassley, and the federal jobless payments are a key issue. “Well, we’ve got some people that think they ought to continue $600 even to the end of 2021,” Grassley says. “Then, we’ve got some that think that at four months, with the economy turning around, that we shouldn’t do anything.”
At recent town hall meetings in Iowa, Grassley says he heard from business owners in a range of professions, including in turkey processing, ethanol production and in physical therapy clinics. The chorus is always the same, he says, that they can’t get workers to come back as unemployment pays more than returning to the job.
Grassley says, “When you pay people more not to work than to work, and at $600, it’s about two-thirds of the unemployed people getting more not working than working, there’s not an incentive to go back to work.” In recent weeks, a top Democrat said the extended jobless benefits didn’t need to be $600 a week, so Grassley says his fellow Republicans suggested lowering the benefit to $200, but that didn’t fly in negotiations either.
“It’s a bad government policy and we have to take some guilt for it being in place in the first place,” Grassley says. “We wanted to help people that had a dire need but you can’t discourage people from going back to work.” Under the plan, Grassley says the federal government is essentially “out-competing private employers for workers.”
There’s also disagreement over the second round of stimulus checks to most taxpayers. Some suggested one-time checks of between $1,000 and $1,200, while Democrats suggested checks of up to $2,000 — each month — but that proposal has no chance of passage