Sen. Joe Manchin signals he won’t back renewal of federal jobless aid for gig workers and long-term unemployed past Labor Day

Sen. Joe Manchin face
Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va) on Capitol Hill. Drew Angerer/Getty Images
  • Sen. Joe Manchin indicated he would not back a renewal of federal aid programs for gig workers and long-term unemployed.
  • “I’m done with extensions,” he told Insider. “The economy is coming back.”
  • His opposition would effectively kill the extension of those programs set to expire on Labor Day.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia indicated on Saturday he would not back including an extension of federal aid for gig workers and long-term unemployed Americans past Labor Day in a Democrat-only package.

“I’m done with extensions,” he told Insider. “The economy is coming back.”

Manchin went on: “Look guys, read your own print. Read your own print. The economy is stronger now, the job market is stronger. Nine million jobs we can’t fill. We’re coming back.”

The West Virginia senator’s opposition would effectively kill the renewal of those federal aid programs, given all 50 Senate Democrats need to back the party-line bill for it to clear the upper chamber. Democrats are drafting the initial bill, which will pass through the reconciliation process requiring only a simple majority vote sometime this fall.

Nearly 9.4 million people are currently receiving benefits through a pair of pandemic-era federal initiatives: Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA), which expanded benefit eligibility to gig workers. Then Pandemic Extended Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) extended how long recipients could collect benefits for. Jobless people also qualify for a $US300 ($AU409) federal weekly unemployment supplement.

The measures were extended in President Joe Biden’s stimulus law, but those will end on Sept. 6. A recent report from Andrew Stettner at the left-leaning Century Foundation projected that 7.5 million people would lose all their jobless aid if Congress didn’t step in.

The number of unemployment claims has steadily fallen as the economy regained jobs and people returned to work. New jobless claims slid to 385,000 last week in a fresh sign that the economy is recovering from the devastation of the pandemic. The latest jobs report on Friday showed the US added 943,000 jobs in July.

But concern is mounting among experts that the surging Delta variant of COVID-19 may harm the recovery. Jason Furman, formerly a top economist to Barack Obama, said in a recent interview that he supported extending the programs past Sept. 6 and “grandfathering” current recipients.

“I would also seriously consider extending the programs and possibly making them contingent on caseload and hospitalization numbers,” Furman, now a Harvard professor, said.

Other Democrats favor extending those programs, like Senate Finance Committee Chair Ron Wyden of Oregon. He told Insider on Friday “we’re going to put out all the stops” in pressing for their renewal. He weighed in on Manchin’s comments on Saturday evening.

“During the summer break, I believe senators are going to hear from these gig workers,” Wyden said in an interview. “Folks, for example, who are really hurting and just not getting significant numbers of economic opportunities in this economy. I think senators are going to see support for my idea to bring gig workers at least into the relevant century.”