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Four Republican senators warned on Wednesday they will oppose fast-tracking the $2 trillion coronavirus response legislation unless a “massive drafting error” regarding unemployment insurance is changed so it does not incentivize people not to go back to work.
“A massive drafting error in the current version of the coronavirus relief legislation could have devastating consequences: Unless this bill is fixed, there is a strong incentive for employees to be laid off instead of going to work,” Sens. Tim Scott and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, as well Ben Sasse of Nebraska, said in a statement, according to Fox News.
“This isn’t an abstract, philosophical point — it’s an immediate, real-world problem,” they added.
Sen. Rick Scott of Florida joined his three Republican colleagues in calling for a change to the legislation before it is pushed through fast-tracking procedures.
The “drafting error” involves a $600-per-week payment in addition to the unemployment benefits — which are calculated using a worker’s current salary — that those who apply will receive.
In a joint news conference where the senators explained their objection to the provision of the bill, Sasse said, “We’re talking that fact that one of the fundamental purposes of this bill is to maintain the employee-employer relationship through the trough of the recession that’s arriving right now.”
“We want to celebrate the dignity of work,” the senator added.
Sasse lamented that parts of the legislation “actually incentivize the severing of the employee-employer relationship.”
“We cannot encourage people to make more money in unemployment than they do in employment,” Tim Scott said.
Graham agreed, saying, “This bill pays you more not to work, than if you were working.”
“If this is not a drafting error, then it’s the worst idea I’ve seen in a long time,” the South Carolinian said.
The four GOP senators called for the unemployment compensation provision to be changed.
“The moment we can go back to work, we cannot create an incentive for people to say, I don’t need to come back to work because I can do better [taking unemployment benefits], Rick Scott said.
“Don’t create the wrong incentive,” the lawmaker continued.
The senators promised that the error could be quickly fixed through an amendment that would set the unemployment benefit limit at 100 percent of a recipient’s current salary.
“I think we need to fix this now because it only makes the problem worse,” Graham said, The Hill reported. “I want an amendment vote. We’ll see what happens.”
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York wrote in a letter to his colleagues the goal was enhancing unemployment benefits to help those out of work due to the coronavirus bridge the gap until they are able to work again, according to The Hill.
“The extended UI [Unemployment Insurance] program in this agreement increases the maximum unemployment benefit by $600 per week and ensures that laid-off workers, on average, will receive their full pay for four months,” he said.
“It ensures that all workers are protected whether they work for businesses small, medium or large, along with self-employed and workers in the gig economy.”
The White House and Senate leaders from both parties reached a deal early Wednesday morning, which they were slated to vote on later in the day.
The package would give one-time payments of $1,200 per adult and $500 per child directly to the public.
Hospitals expecting a flood of COVID-19 patients will receive a large cash infusion.
The legislation also sets aside hundreds of billions in loans for companies to keep workers on their payroll.