Schumer Remarks On New Schumer-Wyden Legislation To Extend Expanded Unemployment Insurance & Require Program Continue Providing Benefits Until Each State’s Economic Conditions Improve

July 1, 2020

Schumer Also Discussed Senate Democrats’ Successful Efforts to Secure Senate-Passage Of Legislation To Extend PPP Program Through Aug. 8

Washington, D.C.—Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) today spoke on the Senate floor, introducing a bold new plan to extend unemployment insurance in times of economic calamity. Senator Schumer also discussed Senate Democrats’ successful efforts to secure the Senate passage of legislation to extend the Payment Protection Program through August 8th and announced that Senate Democrats will attempt to immediately pass desperately-needed assistance for renters and a moratorium extension on evictions. Below are Senator Schumer’s remarks, which can also be viewed here:

All week, Democrats have been trying to force action on the Senate floor to make progress on crucial issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic. As Senate Republicans continue to mindlessly delay the next round of COVID relief, we have tried, day after day, to jolt the Senate into action.

And last night, we made a bit of notable progress. In the late hours last evening, we were able to pass a month-long extension of the Paycheck Protection Program, whose loan authority expired at midnight with over $130 billion left in the program.

We had to force our Republican colleagues to act on this very simple and noncontroversial extension—a date change—to help small businesses across America, particularly underserved businesses, minority-owned businesses who had trouble accessing the PPP program in its early days.

Throughout the day, we had heard—to our surprise—that our Republican friends might block the legislation. But when the time came, Senator Cardin’s consent request was agreed to.

It is certainly something to celebrate, but I would’ve hoped that our two parties could have worked this out before last night, as a small part of much broader legislation to address the many challenges posed by COVID-19, rather than a consent request forcing Republicans to act.

But Senate Republicans, unfortunately, seem dead set on delaying almost any action on COVID until late July, after they’ve had time, in the words of Leader McConnell, to “assess the conditions” in the country.

That obstruction is deeply regrettable and impossible to explain. We have other deadlines before us, not just the PPP. Today is July 1st. With the first of the month comes a new rent payment for millions of Americans families who have lost their jobs through no fault of their own.

Senate Democrats, led by Ranking Member Sherrod Brown, are going to ask the Senate to pass rental assistance and an extension to the moratorium on evictions. Will Senate Republicans agree to our request, or leave millions of renters out in the cold?

I would say to my Republican friends: let the extension of the PPP program be a metaphor. Democrats are going to keep pressing for Senate action on COVID-related issues. Let the Republican response be quick and generous, not stingy and halting

Senate Republicans are going to have to respond, one way or the other, and either support urgent and necessary pieces of legislation, or explain to their constituents why they’re blocking them.

It would be far better to pass these measures earlier rather than later, and be more generous rather than stingier.

Now on the main topic this morning, as I’m proud to join Senator Wyden and Senator Bennet, as the number of COVID-19 cases accelerate across much of the country, the economic toll of this pandemic continues to fall hard on American families and American workers. Over 33 million Americans—at least one fifth of the entire workforce—have now applied for unemployment assistance since the pandemic began.

Democrats secured a crucial enhancement of that unemployment assistance in the CARES Act—an extra $600 a week—which according to a study by Columbia University, prevented as many as 12 million Americans from slipping into poverty.

By the end of this month, those emergency unemployment benefits will expire, but unfortunately, the high levels of unemployment will not. Without an extension of enhanced benefits, Americans struggling without work will have their legs cut out from under them at the worst possible time: in the middle of a raging pandemic.

So I am joining with my colleague, Ranking Member Wyden of the Senate Finance Committee, to introduce a bill that will serve as both short-term solution to this problem and a bold long-term strategy to keep American workers and the American economy afloat. And I thank Senator Wyden for his help and Senator Bennet for his help. Together we have put together a very strong piece of legislation.

Our bill, the Schumer-Wyden American Workforce Rescue Act would do something very simple: it would tie the extension of enhanced unemployment benefits to economic data, not arbitrary political deadlines.

So long as unemployment remains very high—over 11%—the enhanced benefits will stay in place. When unemployment goes down, the benefits will phase-out appropriately.

This automatic stabilization for unemployment benefits would be one of the first programs of its kind, but at its core, this policy is basic, common sense. When Americans truly need the benefits, they’ll be there. And when the economy gets better, those enhanced benefits will be reduced.

The impetus for this legislation is common sense. We should not allow the economic security of the American people to depend on the political whims of the legislatures—federal or state.

When we passed the CARES Act over two months ago, Democrats knew that the extra $600 in weekly unemployment assistance was only a temporary salve for struggling Americans. We had hoped the economy would be able to bounce back and unemployment would quickly go down. Clearly that is not the case today.

Experts are warning us that the economic drag from this crisis will take years, if not a full decade, to fully abate. Further action very, very needed and very, very necessary. But for months, Republicans have double-and triple-downed on their strategy of delaying action on COVID relief legislation. They have kept the American people needlessly wondering if the help they rely on will remain in place much longer.

We need to take the next step and tie unemployment benefits to economic “triggers” that would ensure that so long as Americans are hurting, a safety net will remain in place , whether it's COVID or any other economic disaster in the future that causes unemployment to rise.

That is how you give the American people peace of mind they need, that they will not needlessly fall into poverty this year or next year or the year after.

No doubt, this is a new idea and would be one of the first programs of its kind. But we need to take this bold step forward to guarantee the federal government effectively serves the American people in times of crisis.

There is a long road ahead before the U.S. economy gets back on its feet. In many parts of the country, states are re-imposing restrictions on businesses, restaurants, and other places of employment to halt a renewed spread of the disease. Americans will continue to wonder “when can I get back to work?”

So I am proud to join my colleagues and champion this legislation to provide unemployment benefits for as long as Americans need them.

And before I yield, I want to thank my colleague Senator Wyden for championing it as well. He has been the leading and fiercest advocate for this policy in our caucus, and I am both grateful and proud to stand with him this morning.

And Senator Bennet—who's always thoughtful and thinking on into the future, one of the first members to alert it this chamber and the country to the disparities in income and wealth distribution—has had vital input as well and we thank him.

This policy is smart. It is timely, and it is really forward-thinking. So it is no surprise, that my colleagues, Senator Wyden, is one of the authors, and Senator Bennet has had great input. 

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