Durbin: The Republican Approach To Unemployment Insurance Will Not Work

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) today slammed Senate Republicans’ and President Donald Trump’s proposed partisan coronavirus response legislation, which was finally released Monday night – ten weeks after the House passed the Heroes Act and four days before expanded federal unemployment benefits are set to expire.  In a speech on the Senate floor, Durbin called out Republicans’ plan to cut the $600 weekly federal unemployment benefit to $200 per week.

Nationwide, as many as 30 million Americans are relying on enhanced unemployment benefits to put food on the table and pay for rent and health care.  Since the beginning of March, more than 1.7 million unemployment claims have been filed in Illinois, which is nearly ten times the number of claims processed during the same period one year ago.  As of July 4, 2020, more than 800,000 Illinoisans were claiming some form of unemployment benefits.

“Shouldn't our first obligation be to the workers across America who have lost their jobs so they can keep their families together? This notion of cutting the federal benefit from $600 a week to $200 a week, I can guarantee you will mean much more traffic and activity at the food pantries around America as these unemployed families try to keep things together,” Durbin said.

Durbin also criticized Republicans’ plan to give corporations federal liability immunity from lawsuits related to the pandemic.  Their bill would upend state laws, give businesses incentive to cut corners, jeopardize the safety of frontline workers and families, and risk further spread of the virus.  The liability immunity under this bill would last five years, from December 2019 through 2024. 

“We know that we face a challenge here with this pandemic, but giving this kind of corporate break when it comes to immunity and liability only will make things more dangerous for customers and employees across the United States of America,” Durbin said. “Do you know how many COVID medical malpractice cases have been filed so far this calendar year with this so-called tsunami of lawsuits? Six….And how many consumer personal injury cases have been filed this year mentioning COVID-19 or coronavirus? This epidemic, this flood of lawsuits? Fifteen…It’s an imaginary problem that they are creating at this point.”

Video of Durbin’s remarks on the Senate floor is available here.

Audio of Durbin’s remarks on the Senate floor is available here.

Footage of Durbin’s remarks on the Senate floor is available here for TV Stations.

Along with cutting the weekly federal unemployment benefit and giving corporations federal liability immunity from lawsuits related to the pandemic, the Republican proposal also:

  • Provides inadequate funding for nursing homes, hospitals, and COVID-19 testing.
  • Ties a significant portion of K-12 funding to schools reopening and includes zero funding for broadband internet.
  • Includes no rental assistance or continuation of the eviction moratorium.
  • Includes no funding for SNAP to ensure families don’t go hungry.
  • Includes no funding for state and local governments whose budgets have been gutted, and could force layoffs of essential workers such as teachers, firefighters, and EMS.
  • Bails out defense contractors, but includes no funding for the postal service or to safe-guard our elections.
  • Does nothing to help the millions of Americans who have lost their employer-based health insurance as a result of the pandemic.