A break in the $600 unemployment benefit is especially grave for Black people

As part of the US’s response to coronavirus pandemic, the federal government supercharged unemployment insurance. Since late March, the millions of Americans on unemployment insurance have received an extra $600 dollars a week, on top of what they would normally receive. The $600 enhancement is set to expire today, July 31, and it’s unlikely to be immediately extended, as Congress haggles over how to continue stimulating the economy.

The checks have made a massive difference. They have helped keep many Americans out of poverty after losing their jobs, and allowed low-income households to keep their spending levels close to pre-coronavirus levels.

Many Republicans do not want to extend the benefit at its current level (or at all,) saying that it will increase the debt, and discourage people from returning to work—many unemployed Americans are actually making more money they did when they had a job due to the extra $600. Republicans have suggested the government give people 70% of what they made when they were employed, but this does not appear to be immediately logistically feasible. Democrats argue that the size of the unemployment benefit has helped keep Americans who don’t feel they can safely go back to work afloat.

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