Instead of Standing up for Mainers in Need, Susan Collins is Deflecting Blame from Majority Leader McConnell as he Refuses to Extend Unemployment Insurance that has Provided a Vital Lifeline to Many Maine Families
Portland, MAINE — Mainers are calling on Senator Susan Collins to reinstate the $600/week unemployment insurance (UI) compensation that has proven to be vital income both for struggling families, and Maine’s economy. The insurance was allowed to expire at the end of July due to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s refusal to take up the extension passed months ago by the House. Instead of standing up for everyday Mainers who have been hurt by the pandemic and depend on the UI to make ends meet, Collins is enabling McConnell to use the threat of a drastic reduction in their incomes as a bargaining chip to realize long-sought benefits for corporate special interests.
“Susan Collins says the pandemic is ‘too serious’ for politics. But instead of putting the needs of everyday Mainers first, she’s enabling Mitch McConnell to leverage a pandemic pay cut for Maine families in need to get giveaways for corporate special interests and score points with her and McConnell’s campaign donors,” said Willy Ritch, executive director of 16 Counties Coalition. “Mainers need Senator Collins to stand up to Mitch McConnell and make sure unemployment insurance compensation is reinstated.”
Collins has blamed the lack of bipartisanship for the protracted debate, yet she continues to echo McConnell’s partisan, anti-worker talking points in staunch opposition to UI, and refused to push for the House bill, saying it is “dead on arrival” and that extending UI doesn’t “make sense” despite an abundance of evidence to the contrary. In addition, several months ago the House passed a bipartisan bill which would have continued the UI payments — which McConnell has blocked in the Senate.
In contrast, Maine Senator Angus King, who estimated that the loss of income from the failure to extend UI could cost Maine’s economy $30 million dollars a week, called out Majority Leader McConnell for the Senate’s inaction.
A report by the Maine Center for Economic Policy estimates indicates this move could hurt 182,000 Mainers — including 46,000 children, and cost the state an additional 18,000 jobs.
In addition to hurting Maine families that continue to struggle as the pandemic continues, recent reports have also illustrated how loss of unemployment income will ripple through Maine’s broader economy, showing that “If that federal money were stopped, it would mean less money spent in grocery stores or getting takeout or more people not being able to afford rent.”
Senator Collins has claimed employers reported the $600 a-week- unemployment income is hurting their ability to retain and hire employees, yet a recent survey shows that over 80% of small business owners who responded said the unemployment income had no impact on retention or hiring. Lastly, a recent study by economists at Yale found “no evidence that the enhanced jobless benefits Congress authorized in March in response to the COVID-19 pandemic reduced employment.”
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