The congressional charge to extend unemployment stimulus checks continues after Senate Republicans introduced the HEALS Act in Congress, which includes $1,200 direct payments, liability protections for businesses, and funding for schools, COVID-19 tests and vaccines.
“We’re still in a moment of extreme need to get things done for people, not leave them hanging.” – Rep. Haley Stevens
One caveat Republicans have is cutting the $600 that people on unemployment were provided under previous legislation, to $200. Host Stephen Henderson discusses the prospects of this legislation with Congresswoman Haley Stevens.
Listen: Rep. Haley Stevens on how legislators need to confront the economic crisis
Rep. Haley Stevens is a Democrat who represents Michigan’s 11th District in Congress. She says she found the initial Republican proposal inadequate, but adds that she is open to reaching a consensus to get legislation through the Senate and onto the president’s desk as soon as possible. She has worked on the Resilient Manufacturing Task Force Act, a bill that bolsters supply-chains, and the Child Care Is Essential Act.
Stevens says she knows the unemployment system isn’t perfect. “We in Michigan lived through cyberattacks and laundering attempts that caused major disruptions,” says Stevens. However, she says that leadership within the Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity has expanded unemployment benefits to include gig workers, sole proprietors and the self-employed.
One big question is whether continuing unemployment benefits rewards people for not seeking work because they make more on unemployment than they did while working. Stevens says that she doesn’t believe people should be pushed into long-term unemployment, but also says that industries need more support so they can offer competitive wages. “It’s not a black and white answer,” says Stevens, “This is very nuanced and it’s incredibly complicated. We’re not in a place right now where everyone will be happy with this deal.”
Because of the pandemic, cuts have been made in almost every sector of labor, from hospitals to food-service. “I’m the congresswoman fielding the calls from people in the most prosperous, educated district in Michigan, left on their feet because they don’t have a paycheck coming in, they don’t have the daycare option right now,” says Stevens. “You tell me what they’re going to do?”
This article was written by Detroit Today student producer Lauryn Azu.