Americans living in some GOP-led states could lose their unemployment benefits this week, almost three months before the extra aid is slated to end.
At least 25 states led by Republican governors decided in May and June to prematurely drop out of several pandemic relief programs, including those that provided an extra $300 a week on top of regular state unemployment benefits and expanded eligibility for jobless aid. The supplemental benefits are not poised to expire until Sept. 6.
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Alaska, Iowa, Mississippi and Missouri will be the first to opt out, ending the pandemic-era programs for out-of-work Americans on June 12.
The other states terminating benefits early – Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Georgia, Florida, Idaho, Indiana, Maryland, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, West Virginia and Wyoming – will stop giving unemployed workers an extra $300 in benefits sometime over the summer.
Roughly 16 million Americans will lose their unemployment benefits as a result, according to one estimate published by the Century Foundation.
The measures came in light of the Labor Department's April payroll report, which revealed the economy added just 266,000 jobs last month – sharply missing the 1 million forecast by Refinitiv economists. Payroll growth also missed expectations in May, igniting concerns about a labor shortage and its potential impact on the economy's tepid rebound from the pandemic.
GOP lawmakers were quick to blame the extra unemployment aid for the anemic job growth, although experts have also cited a lack of child care and fears of contracting COVID-19 for the hiring shortage.
There remain 7.6 million fewer jobs than in February 2020, before the pandemic began.
The average state unemployment benefit is about $330 per week. With the federal supplement, Americans are receiving about $630 in weekly unemployment benefits. (For comparison's sake, that's about $32,000 annually, or roughly double the nation's minimum wage.)
President Biden and Democrats have rejected the notion that Americans are choosing to stay home and collect the extra unemployment benefits – part of the $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief law passed in March – rather than returning to work.
Still, Biden has emphasized that the unemployment benefits will end in September as planned, despite momentum among some of his party's members to make the extra money permanent.
"It’s going to expire in 90 days," Biden said on Friday. "That makes sense."