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Senate Republicans Let Emergency Unemployment Relief Expire for More Than Two Months and New Jobless Claims Remain Alarmingly High

DSCC spokesperson Stewart Boss issued the following statement on reports that another 1.4 million Americans filed new jobless claims this past week while Senate Republicans continued to block a full extension of emergency unemployment relief:

“Senate Republicans have let Americans who are out of work go more than two months without unemployment relief as they struggle to pay the bills, buy groceries, and stay in their homes during a pandemic. When it came to rushing a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court just days before the election, however, Mitch McConnell and his caucus didn’t waste a moment. Their priorities are wrong and out of touch, and the ‘anger’ directed at Republicans for failing the country during this crisis is well-deserved.”

After letting emergency unemployment aid expire in July, Senate Republicans took a month-long vacation and left millions of Americans without relief — only to return to Washington but continue to block relief. Senate Republicans’ inadequate response to this public health crisis has been to push a stunt bill that even President Trump said didn’t meet Americans’ needs. Now because of Senate Republicans’ lack of action, the temporary patchwork replacement that still cut benefits is set to expire and “tens of millions of Americans are dealing with uncertain futures.”

Now, alarming new reports detail how millions of Americans have been thrust into a “sudden peril” as they’re left to deal with the worst economic crisis in more than a generation without Washington’s help. Senate Republicans’ inaction has left millions of Americans on the edge of a “financial precipice,” but Mitch McConnell and his caucus have decided to focus on rushing to fill a lifetime vacancy and ignore the urgent needs of millions of hardworking families.

Washington Post: Millions of Americans risk losing power and water as massive, unpaid utility bills pile up

By Tony Romm

October 1, 2020

Key Points:

  • This Tuesday marked 67 days of darkness for Kenneth Parson. He fell behind on his utility bills in the spring — and his lights went off, and stayed off, starting at the end of July.
  • The worst economic crisis in more than a generation has thrust potentially millions of Americans across the country into a similar, sudden peril: Cash-strapped, and in some cases still unemployed, they have fallen far behind on their electricity, water and gas bills, staring down the prospect of potential utility shut-offs and fast-growing debts they may never be able to repay.
  • But the scattershot data and grim anecdotal tales appear to point to the same conclusion: Americans already on the financial precipice are coming even closer to the edge. Such a crisis threatens not only their health and well-being but that of the utilities themselves, some of which are already signaling they may have to raise rates or take other drastic steps to make up for the anticipated losses.
  • “You can’t really underestimate the burden of that debt on families,” said Khalil Shahyd, a senior policy advocate at the Natural Resources Defense Council. “It’s also going to have wider ramifications for our economy and our ability to recover from this crisis.”
  • At the height of the crisis, Congress in the spring responded with nearly $3 trillion in stimulus spending that aimed to boost unemployed workers’ weekly benefits, dispatch one-time checks to all Americans and augment existing safety-net programs, including funds to help Americans pay for their electricity. But much of the money has been spent or has expired, all the while lawmakers have bickered over the need for another round of relief.
  • “The data paints a grim picture,” said Sen. Thomas R. Carper, the top Democrat on the chamber’s Environment and Public Works Committee, adding that lawmakers need to “come together and do something that brings relief to Americans who are hurting right now.”
  • The stakes are even higher in communities where municipalities own their own water, electric or gas utilities. With local budgets in disarray — and billions of dollars in long-sought local aid unlikely to come from Washington — many of these cities simply cannot afford the kind of losses their investor-owned counterparts might be able to stomach.

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