All across Ohio, we are watching hospitals fill up – yet again. Our health care system is getting overwhelmed. Small businesses and local governments are running out of money. And even more of the help Congress passed this spring expires at the end of the year.
Senate Leader Mitch McConnell and President Trump allowed the additional $600 a week in pandemic Unemployment Insurance (UI) benefits to expire this summer. Now, the rest of the pandemic unemployment program is set to end at the end of the month – that means people will have fewer weeks of UI benefits, even though the economy hasn’t recovered, and gig workers and self-employed workers will lose their UI altogether.
The eviction moratorium, student loan forbearance, and paid sick leave benefits all expire on New Year’s Eve.
Without real leadership from the federal government, more small businesses are going to close, families are going to be evicted, and local governments are going to lay off workers.
It doesn’t have to be this bad. Passing a real plan to get resources to Ohio can’t wait.
We know we can solve problems for the people we serve – we did in the spring. In March we came together, we took action, and it made a real difference in people’s lives. In the face of mass layoffs, we put money in people’s pockets and helped them pay their bills and keep spending in the economy. We kept 13 million people out of poverty, we saved local businesses, and we kept the economic situation from being much worse than it could have been.
But we know Ohio communities are still hurting, and the situation will get much worse if we don’t get to work now.
I’ve introduced bills throughout the summer and fall that would help renters pay their bills, and expand paid sick and family leave to all workers. And I introduced a bill this week, the American Worker Holiday Relief Act, that would retroactively extend the $600 federal boost to UI benefits, and would tie the additional weeks of federal benefits and the new Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program for gig and freelance workers to real economic conditions on the ground, not arbitrary deadlines.
The American people sent a clear message in this election: They want us to get to work to empower people with a real plan to fight this virus, and get people back to work, back to school, and back to their lives.
We have the resources to do it – we just need Leader McConnell to come to the table. The American people should not have to fend for themselves in a once-in-a-generation crisis.
Democrat Sherrod Brown represents Ohio in the U.S. Senate.