It took unimaginable haggling and politicking, but in a small way, Congress came through in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. The federal CARES Act, approved in late March, designated billions in direct economic relief for out-of-work Americans, including the much-needed $600 weekly addition to state unemployment nationwide. In many states, however, that's set to run out in July, and millions of workers are trying to plan for whatever could come next.
Critics have observed that when combined with state disbursements, unemployment insurance can pay out more than someone earns at the job they've lost. (A new University of Chicago analysis found that number to be two-thirds of all recipients, with half more than doubling their usual income.) Many in the federal government are looking to halt the expectation that this can and will continue, which is why some are proposing a so-called back-to-work bonus.
Different policymakers are putting forward different models, from including a $450 bump to newly hired employees' paychecks to a short extension of the $600 weekly unemployment insurance through the first weeks of a new job. Nothing is set in stone, however, including timeframes for implementing these ideas.
As job losses continue to climb due to pandemic shutdowns and top-to-bottom financial contractions, many of those layoffs run the risk of becoming permanent. While there's more than ever going on in government, it's never a bad time to reach out to state and federal elected officials if you have strong opinions on how future policies should play out.