Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, expects Congress to approve another round of coronavirus-related economic stimulus, including unemployment compensation.
However, the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee said Wednesday the current $600-a-week federal benefit will have to be trimmed to encourage Americans to go back to work.
“You got to get people back to their jobs if you want to really have a robust economy,” the Iowa Republican said during his weekly call with reporters.
The extra $600 in federal unemployment benefits from the CARES Act, which is on top of state jobless benefits, is set to expire July 31. The Democratic-controlled House voted to extend the payments through Jan. 31.
It’s too soon to know what else might be included in the next phase of economic stimulus, Grassley said. The size of the package will be affected by “how big, how fast is the economy turning around.”
“If it looks like it’s turning around, that means less stimulus. If it’s slower than we would think it should be, then it’s going to be more stimulus,” he said.
Congress also will have more information later this month on how much of the earlier CARES Act funds have been spent. Grassley estimated about $75 billion earmarked for hospitals hasn’t been allocated.
Also, some Paycheck Protection Program funds were not spent. He expects that to be re-appropriated “or put to some other use.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has proposed $1 trillion to replace revenues state and local governments have lost during the pandemic.
Grassley didn’t rule out more assistance, but said Congress needs to know how the assistance already offered was spent and how much of it is unspent.
“That doesn’t mean we won’t give more money to state and local governments,” he said, adding that it might be a matter of giving them more flexibility in spending those funds.
Regarding unemployment, Grassley still is concerned that the combination of state and federal benefits has “reached the point where we’re paying people more not to work than to work.”
“And guess what, if you pay more not to work, what’s going to happen? People aren’t going to work,” he said.
“I didn’t mean to leave it that we wouldn’t be considering some sort of additional help for people beyond July 31, but it ought to take the form of things that encourage people to go back to work,” he said.
Grassley believes the Finance Committee will propose something to help out-of-work Americans, “but it can’t be anything that discourages people from going back to work.”