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With Congress still at odds over a new stimulus package and a $600 weekly unemployment bonus set to expire on Friday, three Republican U.S. senators proposed a bill to partially continue that benefit.
The proposed legislation aims to keep unemployed people from having a gap in their payments and potentially falling off a financial cliff. If that federal money were stopped, it would mean less money spent in grocery stores or getting takeout or more people not being able to afford rent.
Maine workers, whose average income ranks lower than many other states, benefited the most from the $600 boost, which has increased their income well above what they normally would make, according to the New York Times.
The bill from Collins and Sens. Mitt Romney of Utah and Martha McSally of Arizona would let states choose either to implement an immediate 80 percent wage replacement or institute a declining amount of $500 per week in August, $400 per week in September, and $300 per week in October.
The bill also proposes providing $2 billion for states to update their unemployment insurance system to better handle targeted wage replacement.
“The phased approach our bill creates would help individuals who have been laid off by compensating them for their lost wages in a way that does not create a disincentive to return to work if they are able to do so,” Collins said in a statement.
The Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation program, created as part of the $2.2 trillion stimulus bill passed in late March, gives workers $600 per week on top of regular unemployment benefits. About 71,000 received the enhanced funds for the week of July 5 to July 11, Maine Department of Labor spokesperson Jessica Picard said.