Sen. Tillis says jobless benefits could be extended as COVID-19 pandemic continues

North Carolina news

CREEDMOOR, N.C. (WNCN) – U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis said Monday that discussions are still underway about extending federal unemployment benefits amid the COVID-19 pandemic, saying there’s talk of “tailoring” them as the crisis continues.

“What we’re talking about is tailoring it more towards what the income was of the people unemployed. You know, we have that idiosyncrasy right now of people who are actually being paid more on unemployment than going back to work,” he said.

As part of the CARES Act, Congress approved giving people an additional $600 per week in unemployment benefits on top of what they receive in state-level benefits. That additional payment ends at the end of July.

“Even with the heightened state of unemployment that we have now, over a million people unemployed in North Carolina, we have thousands of jobs that need to be filled in the (agriculture) sector alone,” Tillis said.

A $3 trillion bill passed by the Democratic-controlled U.S. House, the HEROES Act, included additional stimulus payments for most Americans as well, capped at $6,000 per family. The CARES Act included stimulus payments that maxed out at $3,400 per family.

CBS News reports there are signs that the Trump administration is supporting another round of stimulus payments, but it’s unclear what amount that would be. During a news conference, President Donald Trump said his administration is “asking for additional stimulus money,” CBS News reported.

“One thing we have to do is make sure all the resources approved under the CARES Act, about $3 trillion, gets out there. We’ve got to track the opening of the economy, fill some of the gaps,” Tillis said.

Tillis is up for re-election this year in what is expected to be one of the most competitive races in the country, if not the most competitive.

Former state Senator and U.S. Army veteran Cal Cunningham (D) is running against Tillis.

Cunningham said he also had concerns about the HEROES Act and said the next federal COVID-19 relief bill should be focused.

“Make sure our first responders get support, our teachers are supported through local and state aid. There is a need for us to do much more to build a strong safety net,” he said.

He criticized Tillis for a decision when he was Speaker of the North Carolina House of Representatives to cut state unemployment benefits to a maximum of $350 per week for between 12 and 20 weeks.

“North Carolinians remember and know that it’s Thom Tillis that is responsible for us having one of the smallest and stingiest unemployment benefits in the nation,” Cunningham said. “In my priorities, I’ve called on Congress to act to extend (federal) benefits, at least for the foreseeable future, to help provide support for families that are impacted by this crisis.”

Cunningham and Tillis also weighed in on the discussion over whether to rename military bases named for Confederate leaders, including Fort Bragg, which is named for Braxton Bragg, a general in the Confederate army.

Cunningham, who has served in units at Fort Bragg, said, “I’m mystified at why this premier military installation in the world is named for a slave-owning traitor to the United States. Instead, there have been just years of heroes who have served off of those major units at Fort Bragg.”

He called for a “community stakeholder process” to discuss the issue. “It’s, frankly, not an unusual thing in the military for us to name and rename things after American heroes.”

Tillis opposed an amendment by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts) last week that would have required renaming the bases within three years.

He said, “There’s an appropriate way to do it. And, I’m going to continue to work with Senator Warren. I had a discussion with her in the committee to say, let’s do it in a way that really brings about a discussion. A mandate to change any monument, any plaque, any paraphernalia, any name within three years, that’s ending the discussion. I think there are very clearly instances where they may result in changing the name, but let’s use this opportunity to start stimulating a dialogue on it versus just mandating something that I think a lot of people on both sides would like to discuss.”

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