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Experts available to media on Republicans' plan to cut unemployment benefits

EVANSTON Ill. --- With enhanced unemployment benefits set to expire at the end of the month, President Donald Trump and Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives are calling for cuts to the COVID-19 stimulus plan, arguing that the relief is deterring people from working. Northwestern University experts can speak to media about the impact cutting the program will have on vulnerable families and what polarization around the issues says about the Democratic and Republican parties. 

Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach is an expert in poverty and economics and a leading researcher focusing on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). She is director of the Institute for Policy Research and the Margaret Walker Alexander Professor in the School of Education and Social Policy at Northwestern. Schanzenbach is also a research associate of the National Bureau of Economic Research. She can be reached at dws@northwestern.edu. 

Quote from Professor Schanzenbach

“Families will be devastated if enhanced unemployment insurance payments are allowed to expire at the end of the month. We are already seeing unprecedented rates of hunger and food insecurity, and more than 40% of households lack confidence that they will be able to pay for their housing and food over the next month. These trends would worsen without additional unemployment benefits, and research shows that the overall economy will also suffer without these payments. I cannot overstate how important it is for Congress to act quickly and responsibly to keep the economy on a strong path to recovery. Essentially every economist in the whole nation is saying more or less the same thing.”

In a paper published by the Brookings Institute on June 25, Schanzenbach and co-authors estimate that the percentage of families concerned about getting enough to eat has more than doubled during the coronavirus pandemic despite one-time federal stimulus payments and a temporary boost in unemployment benefits. The concrete policy ideas put forth in this piece are evidence-based proposals that would improve household and child food security while supporting macroeconomic stability in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Laurel Harbridge-Yong is an associate professor of political science and a faculty fellow with the University’s Institute for Policy Research. Her teaching and research focus on partisan conflict and the lack of bipartisan agreement in American politics. Her most recent book, “Rejecting Compromise: Legislators' Fear of Primary Voters,” (2020, Cambridge University Press) examines how legislators' perceptions of primary voters is an obstacle to legislative compromise and examines what types of reforms can increase compromise. She can be reached at l-harbridge@northwestern.edu.

Quote from Professor Harbridge-Yong 

“The differences in the Democratic and Republican party brands are clearly evident in the recent Republican plan to roll back the additional $600 a week unemployment payment. Republican branding around individual work ethic and minimizing government handouts is in stark contrast to Democratic messaging around a government safety net for the most vulnerable. In the early stages of the crisis, uncertainty produced bipartisan support for these payments but as the crisis drags on and the election cycle becomes more prominent, partisan differences on this issue and many others are likely to be central to policy debates, increasing the risk of gridlock.”