Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) will introduce legislation extending all federal pandemic unemployment programs into next year. The programs expired earlier this month and no extension is included in the infrastructure plans currently moving through Congress.
“I’ve been very disappointed on both sides of the aisle that we’ve just allowed pandemic unemployment assistance to completely lapse, when we are clearly not fully recovered from the cost effects of the pandemic,” Ocasio-Cortez said in a town hall on Tuesday. "I simply just could not allow this to happen without at least trying.”
Ocasio-Cortez's legislation extends the pandemic programs from September 6 when they expired to February 1, 2022, meaning workers who saw a lapse in their benefits will be paid retroactively if the legislation is enacted.
An estimated 7.5 million unemployed workers lost all benefits in September when key pandemic unemployment programs ended, according to estimates by the Century Foundation.
Approximately 4.2 million workers lost the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance — benefits for workers who usually don’t qualify for regular unemployment insurance. Another 3.3 million workers on the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) that extends the duration of unemployment benefits also lost benefits. The additional $300 of weekly benefits, paid for by the federal government, also ran out.
Four million more workers lost some or all benefits in June and July after 26 states opted out of the federal unemployment programs early.
The pandemic unemployment benefits have been extended three times during the pandemic — the last time in March — and have delivered more than $800 billion to families. A provision to again extend the benefits was not included in President Joe Biden's initial infrastructure proposal or in the House Democrats' version released earlier this week.
"I will be reintroducing legislation to bring back the pandemic unemployment assistance," Ocasio-Cortez said. "I'm not entirely sure the prospects of it... We will work it, we will try but I simply just could not allow us to let this happen without us at least trying."