Biden signals he supports ending the $300 federal unemployment benefit in September

  • Biden indicated that he supports allowing enhanced unemployment insurance to end in September.
  • “It makes sense it expires in 90 days,” the president said in remarks from Delaware following the May jobs report.
  • It’s not immediately clear whether Biden’s comments also extend to programs aiding gig-workers and long-term unemployed people.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

President Joe Biden indicated on Friday that he supports allowing enhanced unemployment insurance to expire in early September as more people get vaccinated and return to work.

“A temporary boost in unemployment benefits that we enacted helped people who lost their jobs through no fault of their own, and who still may be in the process of getting vaccinated,” the president said in brief remarks from Delaware following the May jobs report. “But it’s going to expire in 90 days — it makes sense it expires in 90 days.”

Federal unemployment benefits were an integral part of the three pandemic assistance packages that have been approved since March 2020. The recent $1.9 trillion stimulus law included an extension of a $300 weekly federal benefit that expires in September, along with a renewal of two federal programs aiding gig workers, freelancers, and the long-term unemployed.

It’s not immediately clear whether Biden’s outlook stretches to the pair of government programs as well. The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment, and the Labor Department declined to comment.

Over the past month, 25 Republican governors have announced they are scrapping those federal programs over the summer, arguing laid-off workers aren’t seeking out new positions. Republicans and business groups stepped up their complaints of a hiring shortage in the wake of a shocking jobs report in April.

Biden’s remarks come after the latest jobs report on Friday showed the economy regained 559,000 jobs in May, an amount narrowly missing forecasters’ expectations.

Those 25 GOP governors moving to end federal unemployment benefits early will impact millions of workers in the coming weeks. About 4 million people will see their benefits slashed or gone completely, according to an estimate from Andrew Stettner at the liberal-leaning Century Foundation. 

But the increased benefits may not be the sole driver for workers continuing to stay home. Rather, a few factors may be contributing. One increasingly prominent reason: A mismatch between the skills required for open jobs and available workers. Fears over COVID linger, as well as childcare obligations.

On the whole, workers would still rather work than remain on unemployment, according to a working paper from the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco. Prematurely ending benefits — which governors say will encourage workers to return to work — has left some workers scrambling.

Many stand to lose their benefits completely, since they’re receiving unemployment insurance through pandemic-era programs. Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) expanded who’s eligible to receive benefits, bringing gig workers into the fold; Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) expanded how long workers could receive benefits, even after exhausting the weeks their states provide. 

In many states opting out of federal UI, both of those programs will end within weeks.

Some advocates and politicians have said that the Labor Department is obligated to step in and provide PUA benefits. The Labor Department has concluded, however, that it likely won’t be able to pay out those benefits.

“It looks like my job, my work, could open back up a little bit in October, or maybe by November,” Susan Hardy, an unemployed worker in West Virginia (which is ending its federal benefits on June 19), previously told Insider. “At least going to September would allow me to get through more of the difficult periods before hopefully things will open up.”

This story is developing. Check back for updates.

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