FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
AUGUSTA, Maine — Proposed cuts to federal unemployment benefits would affect 182,000 Mainers — including 46,000 children — who are relying on those payments to meet basic needs during the pandemic recession, according to new analysis published by the Maine Center for Economic Policy.
The $600 weekly boost to unemployment provided through Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC), along with other provisions that strengthened Unemployment Insurance during the crisis, will expire on July 31 unless Congress moves quickly to extend them.
But a COVID-19 relief plan unveiled by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Monday would slash Mainers’ benefit by $400 per week.
“With COVID-19 cases on the rise nationally and tens of thousands of Mainers dealing with unemployment, struggling to put food on the table and falling behind on rent, Congress should reject the Senate Republicans’ cuts to unemployment benefits,” said James Myall, a MECEP policy analyst and the report’s author. “Instead, they should continue the emergency unemployment provisions for as long as the economy takes to recover.”
Congress created FPUC in March as part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES ACT) in March. The program provides an extra $600 to laid-off workers, who have used those funds to pay for food, housing, childcare and other basic needs.
In addition to helping families keep up with expenses during this unprecedented public health and economic crisis, research indicates FPUC is supporting the equivalent of 18,000 jobs in Maine.
Other findings in MECEP’s new report include:
- Expanded unemployment has reduced harm from COVID-19: Without FPUC, Mainers laid off through no fault of their own would be forced to face the pandemic with just a fraction of their prior income. Roughly 40 percent of UI claimants worked in low-wage jobs and would have faced much greater difficulty affording housing, food and other basics without the additional benefit.
- Hardship persists even with additional benefits, and cuts will only make it worse: 30 percent of unemployment recipients are using credit cards to pay for essentials such as groceries; One in four recipients with a mortgage or rent payment missed their payment last month and one in three worry whether they’ll make next month’s payment.
The full report is available here.