GOP rep says business owners see employees return as $600 unemployment boost expires

Democrats argue the aid is necessary as many Americans are without jobs and the coronavirus pandemic remains a threat

Rep. Lance Gooden, R-Texas, said on Wednesday that business owners in his district are seeing employees coming back to work after the federal unemployment boost expired at the beginning of the month -- just as congressional leaders negotiate an extension.

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The $600-a-week top-up to existing unemployment benefits was one of a number of provisions in the CARES Act, signed by President Trump in March, that expired last week. But as Congress negotiates a possible extension, Gooden suggested that it may be bringing employees back to the workforce.

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“With $600 extra unemployment expired, business owners in my district tell me this week is the FIRST WEEK they’ve had all their employees show up,” he said in a tweet.

It taps into the ongoing battle over continued benefits on Capitol Hill, where Republicans have expressed concern that the $600-a-week payment means many workers earn the same or even more than what they earn while at work, slowing down the economy recovery and keeping Americans out of work.

But Democrats have argued the aid is necessary when many Americans are without jobs and much of daily life is still shuttered or partially shuttered as the coronavirus pandemic remains a present threat. They want to extend the $600-a-week addition to the end of the year, while Republicans want to reduce it to $200-a-week.

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Lawmakers in Congress and White House officials have been working to come to an agreement and finalize another round of aid -- possibly with a vote in Congress as early as next week.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Tuesday that he could support extending the full $600-a-week unemployment benefit in the next coronavirus relief package -- so long as President Trump backs the measure.

"Wherever this thing settles between the president of the United States and his team that has to sign it into law, and the Democrats, a not-insignificant minority in the Senate and majority in the House, is something I'm prepared to support," McConnell told reporters during his weekly press conference. "Even if I have some problems with certain parts of it."

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Last week, Trump appeared to endorse continuing the $600 checks, tweeting that he was "disappointed" Schumer had blocked a Republican proposal to temporarily extend the aid.

Fox News’ Megan Henney contributed to this report.