September 03,2021

Wyden Statement on Expiration of Enhanced Jobless Benefits

Senate Finance Committee Chair Ron Wyden, D-Ore., today released the following statement ahead of the expiration of enhanced jobless benefits:

“Millions of jobless workers are going to suffer when benefits expire on Monday, and it didn’t need to be this way. It’s clear from the economic and health conditions on the ground that we shouldn’t be cutting off benefits now. There was no way to predict back in March the explosion of cases we’ve seen with the Delta variant, and how it’s held job growth back, particularly in the service sectors.

“I pushed for an extension of at least the programs for gig workers and additional weeks of federal benefits, but we did not have a bill moving that would have passed.

“It’s unfortunate the business lobby’s false narrative that workers were refusing to go back to work was endlessly repeated and allowed to take hold. All evidence has subsequently shown that jobless benefits were not a real factor. This false narrative gave Republican governors cover to cause workers needless financial pain to score political points.

“When it comes to long-term reform, our unemployment insurance system is broken. It’s been broken for decades. Not only did we fail to fix it after the Great Recession, state after state sabotaged their unemployment insurance systems by making benefits as hard as possible to access. As we’ve seen over the last 18 months, it’s much harder for the unemployment system to work in a crisis when it’s been neglected and sabotaged when the economy is doing well.

“While the weekly boost and coverage for self-employed workers helped keep the economy afloat and millions out of poverty, millions of jobless workers struggled to access benefits and millions more have been completely unable to access benefits. We can’t fail again to fix it in the wake of the second major economic crisis in 10 years, and this will be a major priority in Democrats’ upcoming jobs package.”