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$600 federal unemployment benefit over at end of month

Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal

New Mexicans collecting unemployment because of coronavirus are about to lose the extra $600-a-week benefit.

The benefit provided by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act will expire July 31 unless Congress passes an extension.

The Democratic-controlled U.S. House included an extension of the unemployment insurance through Jan. 31, 2021, in the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions Act, but the legislation has not been seriously considered in the Republican-controlled Senate.

According to the Department of Labor, most New Mexicans will receive their last $600 benefit on top of their state unemployment on July 25, because the language in the legislation requires that the last checks be issued on the weekend before the 31st.

Those who have applied but have not yet been approved for unemployment may still be eligible for retroactive payments of the extra $600, dating back to their date of eligibility, DOL guidance said.

According to a Thursday DOL report, 6,113 New Mexico residents filed an initial claim for unemployment insurance during the week of July 4. And New Mexico Workforce Solutions spokeswoman Stacy Johnston said the state has recorded more than 156,000 certifications to receive the benefit.

“This number includes people receiving benefits and others who are in the system and awaiting determination,” she said.

U.S. Rep. Deb Haaland, D-N.M., was one of more than 100 members of Congress who sent President Donald Trump a letter Thursday asking his administration to extend the benefit.

“Cutting off enhanced unemployment benefits while the economy is still in crisis would ignore the millions of Americans who are still suffering,” the lawmakers wrote. “We hope that you will support this measure in the weeks ahead.”

Meanwhile, U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Luján called on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to put the HEROES Act to a vote in that chamber.

“It is deeply concerning that while New Mexico families are struggling, Mitch McConnell has refused to bring this legislation up for a vote to protect the lives and livelihoods of Americans,” he said in a statement to the Journal.

U.S. Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., said the bill would “get additional individual relief payments, and those who are out of work will continue to receive unemployment insurance.”

Extending the benefit is expected to face opposition in the Senate, which returns from recess on Friday.

Some Republicans delayed passage of the CARES Act in March because they felt the extra $600 encouraged people not to work, with many receiving more in unemployment benefits than they were on the job.

According to a report by The Hill, McConnell and other Republican senators oppose the extension for that reason.

“I could not disagree more with Senate Republicans’ position that there is no need to extend expanded unemployment relief. To get back to normal – and to protect the health and economic security of families all across New Mexico – we must take bold legislative action immediately,” Udall said.

U.S. Sen, Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., have sponsored a bill to extend the benefits for the duration of the pandemic.

And U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, is proposing a back to work bonus of $450 a week that has support from the Trump administration.

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