An analysis of federal Department of Labor statistics found that, under a coronavirus relief plan proposed by Senate Republicans, Oklahomans would see the steepest average cut – 57% – in combined state and federal unemployment payments.
The study, from the left-leaning Century Foundation, found that while receiving the now-expired Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (PUC) payments of $600 per week, the average Oklahoma claimant received $701.23 per week. Under the Senate GOP plan, which would slash PUC payments to $200 per week, that amount would shrink to $301.23.
Andrew Stettner, senior fellow at the Century Foundation and the analyst who compiled the data, said the reduction doesn’t make sense from an economic standpoint.
“Anyone who knows a business – once you get into a spiral, it’s a lot harder to get the business up and running again,” Stettner said. “This is about keeping the business of America sound until we get this virus under control.”
Stettner dismissed arguments that the $600 weekly payments are disincentivizing people from returning to work, noting that beneficiaries are required to return to work if offered their job back.
“They’re disincentivized because their employers haven’t called them back, and also they’re worried about getting a potentially killer virus,” he said.
Appearing on NPR’s Morning Edition on Thursday, Oklahoma Sen. James Lankford argued for the plan to cut the benefits, saying unemployment should not total more than wages and that the federal government wouldn’t be able to afford to make every unemployed person whole.