Officials warn it will take months to implement Trump’s reduced unemployment benefits

  • The White House wants to end the $600 weekly unemployment checks Americans’ have received during the pandemic and replace them with payments of up to 70% of a worker’s previous wages. 
  • But the National Association of State Workforce Agencies warned Congress it would take between 8 and 20 weeks to transition to this more complex system, according to a memo obtained by NPR. 
  • Trump’s Department of Labor said in May that it “strongly” opposed unemployment based on previous wages because it would be “exceedingly difficult if not impossible to implement.”
  • Democrats are pushing to extend the $600 unemployment benefits and argue that reducing or delaying the elevated cash assistance will have devastating ripple effects on individuals and the economy broadly. 
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

The White House announced last week it wants to end the $600 weekly unemployment checks Americans’ have received during the pandemic and replace them with payments of up to 70% of a worker’s previous wages. 

But the National Association of State Workforce Agencies warned Congress that it would take the majority of states between 8 and 20 weeks to transition to this more complex method of calculating individuals’ benefits, according to a memo obtained by NPR

Under President Donald Trump’s proposed system, Americans’ average weekly federal unemployment would drop to about $200.

State unemployment systems have already struggled to meet the demand of the approximately 30 million Americans currently on unemployment, in part because of outdated technology. Officials say switching to a system based on partial wage reimbursement would involve a more complicated and time-consuming process of gathering information about every unemployed person’s former wages. 

Trump’s Department of Labor told Congress in May that it “strongly” opposed unemployment based on previous wages because it would be “exceedingly difficult if not impossible to implement.”

Republicans have for months warned that the $600 unemployment payments, which were passed in March under the CARES Act and expire next week, will discourage many Americans from going back to work. But prominent economists who’ve studied the issue in recent weeks say there’s no significant evidence the elevated benefits are discouraging workers from getting new jobs. Economists also say the cut in unemployment could mean millions of fewer jobs are created in the coming year.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and White House chief of staff Mark Meadows insisted last week that the technological issues won’t prevent timely delivery of unemployment going forward. 

Democrats are pushing to extend the $600 unemployment benefits and argue that reducing or delaying the elevated cash assistance will have devastating ripple effects on Americans and the economy. 

“With their outdated technology, it would take states weeks to implement any change to the $600 boost,” Sen. Ron Wyden, the ranking Democrat on the Finance Committee, said last week. “This would cause significant disruption. The only option that ensures families can pay August rent is extending the $600.”

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