December 01, 2020

Warren Joins Warner, Wyden & Colleagues in Requesting Extension of Pandemic Unemployment Programs

Text of Letter (PDF)

Washington, DC – Today, United States Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) joined Senators Mark R. Warner (D-Va.) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Ranking Member of the Senate Finance Committee, along with 29 of their colleagues in urging Senate leaders to include in the next COVID-19 relief package an extension of two critical financial lifelines for Americans affected by the economic fallout of the COVID-19 crisis. 

Currently, the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program – which provides unemployment assistance to domestic workers, freelance workers, contractors, and other workers in alternative work arrangements – and the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) program – which temporarily provides a 13-week extension of benefits for those whose regular unemployment benefits have expired but are still struggling to find employment during the pandemic – are set to expire on December 26th. Unfortunately, these programs are as vital as ever right now, with the nation facing more than five times the number of COVID-19 cases as in the spring, and with more than twice the number of Americans participating in these programs as in the regular state unemployment system.

“As the virus surges going into the winter months, the loss of benefits at this time is particularly cruel. A recent report from The Century Foundation suggests that nearly 12 million workers could lose coverage once these programs expire over the holiday. In other words, roughly 12 million American workers will lose benefits this season for a job they lost through no fault of their own,” wrote the senators in a letter to Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer.

“What’s more, the loss of emergency benefits compounds the hardships many families are already facing in this economy. Since May, researchers have found that roughly 8 million Americans have slipped into poverty. That is the equivalent of the entire population of Virginia or Washington (as well as the combined populations of Kentucky and Oregon) falling into poverty over the span of a few months,” they continued. “Right now, one in six adults with children report that their household did not have enough to eat in the last seven days. For Black and Latino households, that figure is roughly one in five. Still worse, nearly 30% of households with children are not caught up with their rent payments. In other words, going into this holiday season, millions of additional American families are living below the poverty line, unable to provide sufficient food for their households and likely facing evictions from their home.”

In the letter, the senators urged for these programs to be extended with additional weeks of eligibility for workers, noting that approximately 4.4 million workers will have already run out of benefits by the end of the year, with millions more exhausting their benefits next year. This includes workers in the service and arts sectors, among other industries who continue to struggle nearly nine months into the pandemic.

They also stressed the importance of significantly reforming the nation’s unemployment system in the near future so that every American can count on a social safety net during times of need.

Senators Warren, Warner and Wyden were joined by Senators Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Mazie K. Hirono (D-Hawaii), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill., Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Bob Casey (D-Pa.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), and Angus King (I-Maine).

Senator Warren has been working to ensure individuals out of work have access to unemployment benefits during this pandemic:

  • In July 2020, Senator Warren cosponsored Senator Wyden’s bill, the Worker First Act, to authorize $10 billion in grant funding to authorize states to make worker-friendly changes to their state unemployment laws.

  • On April 13, 2020, Senator Warren, along with her colleagues, pressed the Department of Labor to ensure workers Congress intended to be covered by the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Program receive the benefits they are owed. 

  • On April 7, 2020, Senator Warren and a group of Democrats outlined a number of actions the administration should take to help states disburse the new unemployment insurance as quickly as possible.

  • On May 21, 2020, Senators Warren, Mark R. Warner (D-Va.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Doug Jones (D-Ala.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) introduced the Paycheck Security Act to cover the wages and benefits of employees of affected businesses and non-profits until the economic and public health crisis is resolved.

  • In March 2020, Senator Warren cosponsored the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Act, which provided the framework for the unemployment provisions of the CARES Act.