Senate Democrats are nearing an agreement within their caucus to reduce the plus-up in federal unemployment benefits in the COVID-19 relief bill to $300 from the $400 included in the House bill.
Democratic centrists led by Sens. (D-W.Va.) and (D-Del.) support keeping the weekly benefit at $300 given the cost of the $1.9 trillion relief measure.
The “contours” of the emerging deal call for keeping the weekly unemployment benefit at $300 but extending it to Oct. 4 to avoid the so-called “August cliff,” according to a Senate Democratic aide briefed on the matter.
In a concession to liberals, the deal would also make up to $10,200 in unemployment compensation exempt from taxes. The tax break would apply to benefits received in 2020.
People who have already filed their tax returns for 2020 would be allowed to file an amended return.
The change is likely to anger progressives in the House and Senate, but may reflect the realities of the 50-50 Senate, where a single Democrat can join with Republicans to provide 51 votes.
A number of centrist Democrats have been seen as worried about the cost of the legislation and the jobless benefits had been a point of contention.
Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) said Thursday that he was thinking about offering an amendment to keep weekly unemployment benefits at $300 instead of the $400 a week proposed by and included in the House-passed relief bill.
“What the states have said is they don’t want to be jerked around, they want to have some predictability and certainty,” Carper told The Hill Thursday. “We’re working on something. We’ll see.”
The deal also comes after a strong jobs report on Friday found the economy added 379,000 jobs in February, a better than expected figure.
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