Aug 04 2020

Graham Introduces Amendment To Correct Pandemic Unemployment Assistance

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) today introduced an amendment that would make changes to unemployment benefits which have seen an estimated 70 to 80 percent of unemployed individuals making more on unemployment benefits than they did at their jobs.

Under the Graham amendment, unemployed individuals in South Carolina would continue to receive up to $326 from the state. The current $600 per week federal unemployment benefit would be lowered to $500 for the months of August and September. 

Beginning October 1, an unemployed individual would continue to receive up to $326 a week from the state plus a federal benefit of up to $500. The benefit would cover up to 100 percent of an unemployed individual’s pre-pandemic wages.

“I’m sympathetic to those who have lost their jobs through no fault of their own and want to help make them whole,” said Graham. “However, we cannot continue the $600 per week federal benefit which is now paying unemployed South Carolinians over $48,000 a year. In many cases someone on unemployment has received a pay raise and is making more on unemployment than they did at their job. It’s also unfair to the teachers, police officers, firemen, healthcare workers, and others who continue to get up and go to work to have someone on unemployment making more by staying home. 

“This amendment will help bring the system back into balance. Reshaping the unemployment benefit to continue helping people – but not paying them more in unemployment than they made when they were working – is very important to me.”

The amendment:

  • Ensures that states are reimbursed for 75 percent of unemployment costs for nonprofit, government agency, and Indian tribe employees.
  • Includes $2 billion to assist state unemployment systems in upgrading unemployment systems and ensuring better program integrity.
  • Provides $1.15 billion to states to process unemployment claims and upgrade systems. 
  • Includes an emergency declaration to address pay-go concerns.   

Graham noted that earlier this week the South Carolina Chamber of Commerce, South Carolina Restaurant and Lodging Association, South Carolina Retail Association, and National Federation of Independent Business wrote to the South Carolina congressional delegation expressing concerns about a continuation of the $600 per week federal supplement is harming South Carolina business.

“The additional $600 per week unemployment payment has caused many South Carolina businesses to face ‘recall resistance’ from employees because the extra-large benefit exceeds many individuals’ prior weekly earnings,” wrote the organizations. 

“This provision is inadvertently impeding businesses’ ability to fully re-open and get our state’s economy back on track…In South Carolina, employers are seeing first-hand the unintended consequences of the extra $600 weekly benefit that exceeds many individuals’ weekly earned wage. DEW (Department of Employment and Workforce) reports that they have seen incidents of individuals refusing work because they make more on unemployment. Employers are being told stories of ‘ghosting,’ a scenario in which an applicant is applying for a job, interviewing, but not showing up for work in an effort to continue to receive the extra unemployment benefits.”