Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., has announced that she will introduce legislation to extend the pandemic unemployment benefits until next year. The news comes as the programs expired Sept. 6 and no extension is included in the infrastructure plans currently moving through Congress.
The plans of Ocasio-Cortez were made public during a town hall on Tuesday. She said during the town hall, “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. I simply just could not allow this to happen without at least trying.”
AOC’s legislation extends the pandemic programs from Sept. 6 when they expired to February 1, 2022, meaning workers who witnessed a lapse in their benefits will be paid retroactively if the measure is enacted.
According to estimates by the Century Foundation, an estimated 7.5 million unemployed workers lost all benefits in September when several pandemic unemployment programs ended.
Ocasio-Cortez pointed out during the town hall that she does not know if her bill will be possible, but she said she could not just give up without trying to get it passed. She noted, “I’m not entirely sure the prospects of it, and I want to be completely honest with you all on that. We will work it… even if the majority of the caucus is not onboard, we are going to do our best to make that effort.”
The federal unemployment benefits affected around 7.5 million Americans without any income during the pandemic as they continued to look for work. Approximately 4.2 million of that number belongs to the recipients of the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance. Further, 3.3 million of the 7.5 million lost the benefits from the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation.
The federal unemployment benefits have been extended three times during the pandemic, and the last time was in March. The Biden administration said that they did not extend the September 6 expiration anymore as they hope that states would locally provide their residents some form of financial assistance using the COVID-19 emergency funds under the American Rescue Plan.