KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A petition to extend the additional $600 weekly unemployment benefits, also known as Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation, has reached more than 1 million signatures.
The FPUC payments, part of the CARES Act, for people receiving unemployment benefits are set to end July 31.
Florida resident RJ Wolfe started the petition to extend the benefits in March when he realized the payments would end in July.
"There's not going to be jobs for people to go back to," Wolfe said. "This extra time can really be the difference between life and death for them and their children and that's just devastating to me."
A proposal to extend the benefits until January 2021 is part of the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions Act, also known as the HEROES Act, which passed the U.S. House of Representatives but has not been taken up by the Senate.
Some lawmakers against the extension have said the benefits are a disincentive for people to go back to work.
Wolfe said he disagrees with that logic.
"I believe people want to work, they want health insurance, they want benefits, they want to be back," Wolfe said.
Burlington, Kansas, resident Tina Hallier said the additional $600 has made a difference.
"It helps. Right now it got me caught up on a lot of my bills, but I'm kind of on the fence about it because I want to go back to work, I'd love to go back to work," Hallier said.
U.S. Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Missouri, said he wants to focus on getting people back to work with his Rehire America Plan.
"Unemployment has been a lifesaver for a lot of folks, but nobody wants to be in the unemployment line in the long term. They want to have work and they want to have the security that goes with work," Hawley said.
Kansas Congressman Steve Watkins, a Republican representing the 2nd Congressional District, sent 41 Action News this statement:
“The intent of the unemployment enhancement was to provide relief for those who lost their jobs due to the Coronavirus lockdowns, not to discourage individuals from reentering the workforce. In order to address this issue I joined my colleague from the Ways and Means Committee in supporting H.R. 7066, the Reopening America by Supporting Workers and Businesses Act of 2020, which would allow for a one-time payment of up to two weeks of unemployment benefits for those who gain employment. The greatest stimulus is getting back to work.”
Wolfe said he has delegates in all 50 states sending the petition to lawmakers and governors. He plans to deliver it to Washington, D.C., in person before July 31.