Mitt Romney proposes another compromise on unemployment relief

As congressional negotiations continue about possible COVID-19 relief, Sen. Mitt Romney and two other GOP senators proposed another possible compromise on Wednesday about enhanced unemployment benefits.

They now suggest extending payments through the end of the year (as do most Democrats). But they want to provide less than the $600 a week extra that had been provided until payments expired last Friday (as do most Republicans).

The trio are proposing to allow payments of $500 a week in August (or $400 for states that don’t want to change amounts in September); $400 in September; and $300 a week for October through December if a state is unable to pay 80% of a worker’s previous earnings.

Democrats have proposed to continue the $600 payments through January. But Republicans said it creates an incentive for some people not to return to work because they make more with the generous unemployment benefits.

So, Republicans have proposed reducing the extra payments to $200 per week through September with a plan to set total benefits at 70% of lost income after that.

Romney is now tweaking a middle-ground proposal that he and others floated last week. The newest proposal tweaks proposed payments slightly and allows states a few more options.

“Unemployment benefits have now expired, and millions of unemployed workers are facing extreme financial uncertainty while Congress continues to negotiate the next relief package,” Romney said Wednesday.

“Our solution extends the supplemental benefits through the end of the year and incentivizes states to update their UI [unemployment insurance] processing systems. Let’s work together to make sure Americans don’t face additional burdens as a result of a sudden lapse in benefits.”

He was joined in the latest compromise proposal by Sens. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Martha McSally, R-Ariz.

“We must act quickly to help families that have been hit hard by the pandemic. The phased approach our amendment creates would assist individuals who have been laid off by compensating them for their lost wages in a way that does not create a disincentive to return to work if they are able to do so,” Collins said.

McSally added, “This longer-term proposal for unemployment provides support for people still unable to work, while incentivizing individuals to return to available work.”