by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Senator Joe Manchin (D., W. Va.) signaled on Saturday that he would not support including an extension of federal jobless aid for gig workers and long-term unemployed Americans beyond Labor Day in Democrats’ budget reconciliation package this fall.
“I’m done with extensions,” Manchin reportedly told Insider. “The economy is coming back.”
“Look guys, read your own print,” he added. “Read your own print. The economy is stronger now, the job market is stronger. Nine million jobs we can’t fill. We’re coming back.”
The moderate Democrat’s refusal to endorse an extension effectively makes a renewal of the benefits impossible, as all 50 Senate Democrats would need to support the bill for it to pass through the reconciliation process.
The two federal initiatives in question, instituted during the pandemic to help unemployed Americans, are set to expire next month. Pandemic Unemployment Assistance expanded benefit eligibility to gig workers, and Pandemic Extended Unemployment Compensation extended the length of time that recipients could collect benefits. Nearly 9.4 million people are receiving benefits through the initiatives.
Unemployed people have also been eligible for a $300 federal weekly unemployment bonus.
Some two dozen states, however, have already chosen to end the programs ahead of the September 6 expiration over concerns that the generous benefits were incentivizing people to remain out of work.
While a number of lawmakers supported an extension of the additional $300 benefit back in March, many members of Congress from both parties are now opposed or skeptical of another renewal.
The unemployment rate has fallen as the economy added jobs and Americans returned to work. New jobless claims decreased to 385,000 last week, while a new jobs report showed the U.S. added 943,000 jobs last month.
Still, some Democrats are hoping to extend the programs, including Senate Finance Committee Chair Ron Wyden of Oregon.