WASHINGTON, DC – As another 742,000 Americans filed for first-time unemployment benefits last week, and a new report highlights that roughly12 million jobless Americans will lose their unemployment benefits the day after Christmas, U.S. Senator Jack Reed is calling on Congressional Republicans to end their blockade of needed federal aid for job seekers.

“We’re in a pandemic, people are desperate, more Americans are losing their jobs every week, and still Congressional Republican leaders continue to block a needed extension of unemployment insurance.  It is shameful that instead of giving people a lifeline, Republican inaction is pushing more Americans into poverty and could tip the economy into a deeper, longer economic recession.  I have a bill that will prevent politicians from creating this cycle of the unemployed waiting on Congressional action for unemployment benefits, but until then we need action now within the current system,” said Reed.

It has been 34 weeks since Congress passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.  While the CARES Act provided needed assistance to bolster the economy-- including a $600 weekly Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (PUC) to help the unemployed -- it was not large enough to prevent jobless claims from continuing to grow or long enough to cover the duration of the pandemic.

Today, approximately 21 million Americans are collecting unemployment benefits.

Moreover, while the $600 PUC program expired over the summer, two other key pandemic unemployment assistance programs authorized by the CARES Act are set to end on December 26.

Senator Reed is urging Congress to extend both the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program, which provides jobless aid to freelancers and gig workers, and the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) benefits, which offers an additional 13 weeks of federally-funded jobless aid for people after their state benefits were exhausted.

He also believes that we need to peg continued unemployment insurance assistance to the economic and health conditions we are facing.  Earlier this year, Senator Reed introduced the Worker Relief and Security Act, which specifies that for the duration of extreme social distancing and economic crisis, eligible workers will continue receiving UI assistance.

“The infection rate is surging, job losses are mounting, Main Street is struggling, but Congressional Republican leaders and President Trump won’t lift a finger to help because they think the stock market is just fine.  It’s appalling, immoral, and damaging to our economy.  I urge Congress to work together and extend these programs for families in all fifty states,” stated Reed.  “Congress summoned the political courage to pass the CARES Act in March and now that COVID-19 rates have spiked we must act decisively to help people and save lives and livelihoods.”

According to a study by The Century Foundation, the expiration of these CARES Act jobless aid programs would result in 12 million Americans facing a jobless benefit cliff on December 26.

“I know Donald Trump is disappointed he lost the election.  But that is no excuse for my Republican colleagues to help him punish the nation by purposefully blocking needed assistance and making this crisis worse,” concluded Reed.