Amid the negotiations in the Senate over President Joe Biden’s two-part infrastructure plan, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) is setting the table for controversy in budget reconciliation talks this fall. Manchin said on August 7 that he is “done with extensions” of federal unemployment benefits.
He said he would not support an extension of aid for freelance “gig” workers or long-term unemployed persons beyond Labor Day. “The economy is coming back,” Manchin stated.
Manchin cited reports of nine million currently unfilled jobs and the “stronger” economy and job market.
Manchin’s moderate signaling in the past has not always led to votes he has said he would make. If he does withhold consent for an extension of unemployment benefits, it would likely make such an extension impossible.
Around 9.4 million people are currently receiving federal benefits through two unemployment packages. Pandemic Unemployment Assistance assists gig workers, while Pandemic Extended Unemployment Compensation increases the number of weeks eligible for help for the unemployed. There has also been an add-on federal unemployment benefit of $300 per week that supplements state-paid benefits.
Many states chose to end participation in the federal programs in advance of the current expiration date, September 6. The states that have opted out early have generally expressed concern over the disincentive to go back to work the federal benefits might provide.
The latest federal jobs report indicated that the country added 943,000 jobs last month and new unemployment claims decreased to 385,000 last week.
There are still several Democrats in the Senate working to extend the federal benefits. Finance Committee Chair Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) said that he would “pull out all the stops” to get a renewal plan put together.
Wyden said that he expected gig workers to make their voices heard because they are “really hurting” and are not seeing significant economic opportunities.