Progressive activist slams Murphy for cutting off benefits for 400,000 jobless workers

Activist Lisa McCormick said progressive Democrats should boycott the election rather than reward Wall Street millionaire Governor Phil Murphy, who approved $17 billion in new corporate welfare but refused to use his power to use New Jersey’s share of the $350 billion American Rescue Plan state and local fiscal relief fund to provide additional payments to unemployed workers whose benefits expired on September 6.

“Rather than maintain the chain of money moving through the economy as New Jersey, Governor Phil Murphy decided to deny $265 million per week to working class families that would circulate that money very rapidly and contribute a healthy holiday sales season,” said McCormick, who had called on the Wall Street millionaire to use the money as President Joe Biden recommended.

“President Joe Biden that said states with unemployment rates that are higher than the national average — 5.4% — could use COVID relief funds to extend benefits beyond the Sept. 4 expiration date, which would save 392,644 state residents,” said McCormick. “State government could use the federal federal aid money to continue offering benefits to their jobless residents when federal unemployment assistance expired but Governor Murphy decided he wants to spend that money on something else.”

“This is a terrible way to mark Labor Day,” said McCormick noted that Murphy enacted legislation that squanders $17 billion on corporate welfare despite his pledge to end that wasteful spending.

Aven as the economy continues to recover and robust job growth continues, there are some states where it may make sense for unemployed workers to continue receiving additional assistance for a longer period of time, allowing residents of those states more time to find a job in areas where unemployment remains high.

Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen and Labor Secretary Martin J. Walsh recently told Congress that, “states can use their allocations of the $350 billion in American Rescue Plan state and local fiscal relief funds to provide assistance to unemployed workers, including by continuing to provide additional weeks of income support to workers whose benefits expire on September 6th and to workers outside of regular state (unemployment insurance) programs.”

These programs were enacted in the first the COVID pandemic relief measure, known as the CARES Act, and extended in last December’s omnibus legislation and again in the American Rescue Plan legislation. They have been a critical lifeline for millions of Americans who were unemployed, through no fault of their own during the coronavirus pandemic period.

“Four federal unemployment compensation programs will end abruptly on September 4, although any weeks of payments that can be claimed prior to the expiration date may still be paid retroactively if a claimant is determined to be eligible for those weeks of benefits,” said McCormick. “Under current legislation, Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC), Pandemic Extended Unemployment Compensation (PEUC), and Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) benefits can be paid through the week ending September 5, 2021, but after that, all of this assistance will be cut off on September 6, with no grace period.”

Taken together, these programs have delivered nearly $800 billion in assistance to families over the course of the pandemic, but McCormick warns that this aid will soon abruptly come to an end for 7.5 million workers on the two main programs, PUA and PEUC .

Some residents will still have access to regular state unemployment insurance payments as well as other assistance through SNAP, rental assistance, low-cost health insurance and cash aid for families with children.

“The federal government already allocated this money to New Jersey and Governor Murphy has the ability to apply it to keep unemployment payments flowing to 392,000 working class families who are in dire need,” said McCormick. “The greedy Wall Street millionaire simply wants to use the money for something else, and he is willing to hurt working families despite the potential harm this could have on his re-election campaign.”

“I expect that people who might be sleeping through the political news amid summer, the end of the war in Afghanistan, and Trump terrorist prosecutions are going to wake up when the money they need stops coming in,” said McCormick. “Hopefully, this wake up call will inspire more people to rise up to the responsibility of citizenship, because New Jersey needs to make some really big changes.”

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