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Expanded Unemployment Benefit Targeted By Republican Senator

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Lawmakers are back in Richmond for a special session.

And a Republican effort to end the extended unemployment benefit during the pandemic may get some unexpected support.

When the pandemic began in 2020, Virginia started adding an extra $300 a week to unemployment benefits. It was an effort to help people through a very difficult period, although some conservatives criticized the extra money as paying people to stay unemployed.

Now Republican Senator Steve Newman of Bedford County says it's time to end the extra payments.  “If we don't do this, we're going to continue to come up with additional deficits that we're going to have to fund at a later time," Newman said Monday, "and you end up with a situation where we're actually paying people not to go back to work."

Newman says he plans to offer a proposal to end the extra weekly payments to unemployed workers as one of the dozen or so floor amendments Republican senators will be submitting this week.

Democratic Senator Joe Morrissey of Richmond says he'll probably vote for Newman's amendment.  "Right now in the health industry, in the restaurant industry, in the retail non-food industry, employers are literally begging for workers. If that is going on and there is a surplus of jobs out there, we ought not to be incentivizing people to not work,” Morrissey said.

Democrats have a very narrow majority in the Senate, so that amendment would need only one more Democrat to support it to pass the chamber, although it would probably have a more difficult time in the House of Delegates.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.