Since March, in one of the highest-profile economic debates in the U.S., Democrats have said increased unemployment benefits help the economy while Republicans have said the extra jobless pay makes things worse by discouraging work.
There’s not much evidence of economic harm, and voters seem to prefer the Democratic argument by a wide margin, according to a new poll by the progressive think tank Data for Progress.
Sixty-five percent of survey respondents said they agreed with the statement that the expanded benefits “help the economy by boosting consumer spending and keeping businesses and communities afloat,” while only 35% agreed the benefits “hurt the economy by encouraging people not to work.”
Nearly half (49%) of Republicans said the benefits help, as did 80% of Democrats.
Michael Linden, director of the liberal advocacy group Groundwork Action, which commissioned the poll, said Congress shouldn’t cut the benefits “in the middle of a pandemic while it’s not safe for workers to get back on the job.”
Congress added $600 to weekly unemployment benefits in March as part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, but the extra money is set to expire on July 31. Congress this month will likely debate another major piece of coronavirus legislation that could extend the higher benefits.
The Data for Progress poll is only the most recent indication of the higher jobless pay’s popularity. Sixty percent of survey respondents told the Pew Research Center last month they favored keeping the extra jobless pay beyond July, and three out of four voters told Morning Consult the benefits should be maintained or increased.
Republicans objected strongly to the benefits from the start, forcing an unsuccessful vote on an amendment saying nobody should receive more in unemployment than they did from their jobs. For many workers, the $600 added to their regular weekly jobless benefits amounts to more than they previously...