As $600 unemployment benefits nears expiration, people ask what’s next

People wait in line.
Hundreds of unemployed Kentucky residents wait in long lines outside the Kentucky Career Center for help with their unemployment claims on June 19 in Frankfort, Ky.
John Sommers II | Getty Images file

Supplementary unemployment benefits are likely to end before Congress can pass legislation on a replacement package.

House Democrats have been pushing to extend the extra $600 per week unemployment benefit, and on Monday Senate Republicans shared their plan to trim that temporary benefit to $200 per week until states can reimburse workers for 70 percent of their previous wages.

This news comes as unemployment claims are ratcheting back up. It’s estimated that 1 in 5 workers is collecting unemployment benefits. 

The spread of COVID-19 has sharpened the focus on long standing economic inequality and stagnant wages. Before the pandemic, the number of Americans working low wage jobs was close to half. Those Americans experienced the largest share of job cuts, according to an early report from the Federal Reserve.

MPR News guest host and senior economics contributor Chris Farrell spoke with two economists about unemployment and the path to an economic recovery.

Guests:

  • Jared Bernstein is a senior fellow at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. He previously served as chief economist and economic adviser to Vice President Joe Biden during the Obama administration.

  • Indivar Dutta-Gupta is co-executive director of the Georgetown Center on Poverty and Inequality. 

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