Coronavirus: Senate fails to extend enhanced unemployment benefits

Senate fails to extend enhanced unemployment benefits amid coronavirus pandemic

The U.S. Senate on Thursday failed to pass an extension of enhanced jobless benefits one day before extra funds aimed at helping Americans struggling due to coronavirus pandemic are set to expire, according to multiple reports.

Democrats blocked a last-ditch GOP effort that would have cut back the $600 per week benefit to $200, CNBC reported. They instead attempted to pass a $3 trillion stimulus bill approved by the House in May which includes an extension of the $600 benefit through January, though The New York Times reported that failed, too.

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Republicans have argued that the current benefit, which was established earlier this year by the CARES Act, discourages people from returning to work. Democrats have dismissed that argument and pushed for an extension of the full $600 benefit.

Without an extension before Friday, tens of millions of Americans could be left without aid once the CARES Act benefit expires, Politico reported.

The news was reported on the same day that Commerce Department officials said gross domestic product dropped at a 32.9% annualized rate in the second quarter of this year, the steepest decline since the government began keeping records in 1947, according to Reuters.

The economy’s collapse in the April-June quarter, stunning in its speed and depth, came as a resurgence of the viral outbreak has pushed businesses to close for a second time in many areas. The government’s estimate of the second-quarter fall in the gross domestic product has no comparison since records began in 1947. The previous worst quarterly contraction — at 10%, less than a third of what was reported Thursday — occurred in 1958 during the Eisenhower administration.

The plunge in GDP “underscores the unprecedented hit to the economy from the pandemic,” said Andrew Hunter, senior U.S. economist at Capital Economics. “We expect it will take years for that damage to be fully recovered.”

The United States leads the world with the most coronavirus cases and the highest death toll. Since the start of the pandemic, officials have confirmed more than 4.4 million infections and reported more than 151,000 deaths nationwide, according to numbers compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

As of Thursday, more than 17.1 million COVID-19 cases have been reported worldwide and more than 668,000 people have died of the viral infection, according to Johns Hopkins.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.