Hoyer Says Jump in Unemployment Claims Is a Further Call to Action in Virus Fight

March 19, 2020 by Dan McCue

WASHINGTON – The number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits surged to its highest level in more than two years last week, causing House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer to vow the government will do “everything necessary” to help families weather the coronavirus outbreak.

According to the U.S. Labor Department applications for benefits — typically an indicator of layoffs — rose by 70,000 to a seasonally adjusted 281,000 benefit applications last week.

That was the highest weekly total since Sept. 2, 2017, following Hurricane Harvey, which caused catastrophic flooding in Texas and Louisiana.

Economists have been predicting a surge in layoffs as efforts to contain the spreading coronavirus result in people losing jobs in a variety of industries from restaurants and bars to airlines and hotels.

Both the one-week rise and the total number of applications were far above the levels seen over the past year as the country’s unemployment rate fell to a half-century low of 3.5%.

The Trump administration and Congress are scrambling to produce a support package of around $1 trillion which would provide checks to Americans who have been affected by the outbreak.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Thursday that the administration hopes to start sending checks out in the next three weeks, but the timing will depend on how quickly Congress passes a relief plan.

In a written statement, Majority Leader Hoyer said Thursday’s unemployment insurance claims report, “displays the seriousness of the coronavirus outbreak’s impact on families in our economy.

“With so much uncertainty and so many of the nation’s businesses disrupted, workers are being let go without pay,” the Maryland Democrat said. “Ensuring that those who are losing their paychecks due to our national commitment to limiting the spread of the coronavirus can get the assistance they need will be critical to meeting this challenge.

“That’s why the Democratic-led House insisted on including an expansion of unemployment insurance benefits in the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, which was signed into law last night,” he continued. “It is why we will continue to insist as well that the federal government does everything necessary to help families get through this difficult time so that they can pay their bills, keep food on the table, and get the health care they need. We will not rest in meeting our responsibilities to the American people.”

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