As the coronavirus pandemic began to shutter businesses creating mass layoffs, Congress approved an extra $600 in weekly unemployment benefits for people who lost their jobs due to the crisis.
But now that aid is set to expire at the end of the month. U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand in an interview to air this evening at 7 on Capital Tonight said the money should be extended through at least 2021.
"I think the unemployment insurance plus the $600 extra should be included through next year," Gillibrand said. "The reason is a lot of businesses are not going to reopen."
The national unemployment rate reached 14.5 percent in April and has since declined to just over 11 percent last month. The rate is still at historically high levels and does not count people who do not qualify for unemployment, such as undocumented workers.
In New York, the unemployment rate in May reached more than 14 percent, down from 15 percent in April.
New York businesses are gradually reopening under a phased plan that began two months ago. Malls are set to reopen in some areas of the state on Friday. But other states around the country are seeing a resurgence in coronavirus cases and in some areas a rollback of business reopenings.
Any extension of the supplemental pandemic aid would likely be included in another stimulus package that is under consideration in Congress that could also include additional support for small businesses to meet payroll and direct aid for state and local governments.
Bringing these jobs back, meanwhile, is expected to be a slog.
"We have millions of people out of work right now," Gillibrand said. "So we need to make sure they have enough money to feed their children, pay their bills, stay afloat."