Why Don’t Unemployment Bonuses Get More Love?

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Elizabeth Pancotti makes a good point on Twitter:

For some reason, headlines always focus on the value of one-time payments. Congress approves $600 stimulus checks! Trump wants $2,000!

But even the watered-down relief bill passed earlier this week provides a $300 unemployment bonus for 11 weeks. That’s $3,300, dwarfing the size of the stimulus checks. The CARES Act provided $600 for 16 weeks, or $9,600. But as near as I can tell, neither of these numbers ever made it into a headline.

That’s pretty crazy. Those unemployment bonuses alone have amounted to $12,900, aimed like a laser at people who have been furloughed due to COVID-19 and need it the most. These payments, far more than the one-time checks, are why the economy has remained in decent shape and savings rates have increased. Much of the money was spent, but much of it was put into savings and then drawn down over time, which kept consumer spending strong and rescued millions of families from destitution. It’s not quite right to say that this is a well-kept secret, but it’s not entirely wrong either. Why?

UPDATE: The conventional wisdom, I gather, is that one-time checks are popular because everyone gets them. Conversely, unemployment bonuses are unpopular because they mostly get paid out to people who aren’t me. This is why no one really wants to train a spotlight on the unemployment payments.

Sure. I guess. But are we progressives really so lame that we can’t manage to turn the unemployment benefits into a political positive? It’s not as if we can’t support the one-time checks too.

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