Some Democratic members of Congress are pushing the White House to make unemployment benefits more generous, paying higher weekly stipends and lasting up to six months.

The Wall Street Journal reports:

…nearly 40 Democrats…proposed increasing the amount of jobless payments, extending the duration of the weekly benefit, expanding the pool of eligible workers, and implementing a system that would more closely tie the payments to economic conditions.

Since the Covid-19 pandemic began, Congress has taken several temporary measures to bolster jobless payments, including increasing weekly payments and offering support to more workers. Most recently Congress extended a $300 weekly supplement until early September, among other steps.

But the lawmakers are seeking more permanent changes to the social -safety net program.

“The Cares Act’s emergency programs must be extended to support jobless workers for the duration of the current economic downturn, but we must also fix the underlying problems facing our [unemployment insurance] system so that it can provide economic security for all workers…”

Permanently expanding benefits will be very costly. Plus, as we learned from the 2020 CARES Act, which boosted unemployment benefits by $600 per week, tens of billions of dollars were lost to fraud.

There’s also the big unknown: whether more generous benefits reduce the incentive to work in certain industries like food service.  The National Federation of Independent Business survey on jobs and hiring notes small businesses, in general, had a record number of job openings, and are raising wages to encourage applicants. But the applicants just aren’t there. Worse still: Ninety-one percent of [small business] owners trying to hire reported few or no “qualified” applicants for the positions they were trying to fill…

Make the safety net more comfortable, and fewer people will want to leave it.