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A major provision of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) was to give a $600/week payment (known as Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation or FPUC) to anyone receiving Unemployment Compensation (UC) for the past three months. This provision was allowed to aburptly expire today which had me wondering, why $600? I get that a flat rate might have been somehow simpler to calculate and plan for, but given that most UC is based on a percentage of previous earnings, the choice of a flat rate weekly payment seems odd. Was there any public debate which might help to explain how this specific decision was made?

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Why $600 a week?

When you add $600 to the national average unemployment payment — $371.88 a week at the end of 2019 — the replacement rate goes from 38 percent to almost exactly 100 percent. In other words, that amount is what it would take for Congress to replace what the average American worker receiving unemployment would have earned.

This seems to be confirmed by Senator Wyden, after the fact.

CONGRESSIONAL RECORD — SENATE, July 1, 2020

Mr. WYDEN.

We knew that there would be some challenges, and we proposed a simple solution: $600 extra per week across the board, adding up to full wage replacement for the typical worker. It was clear that was the only possibility of getting the supercharged benefits out to millions of workers quickly.


Was there any public debate which might help to explain how this specific decision was made?

Not that I could find. The decision regarding amount and duration was likely made in a Senate committee meeting during "markup".

Committee Consideration

A committee markup is the key formal step a committee ultimately takes for the bill to advance to the floor. Normally, the committee chair chooses the proposal that will be placed before the committee for markup: a referred bill or a new draft text. At this meeting, which is typically open to the public, members of the committee consider possible changes to the proposal by offering and voting on amendments to it, including possibly a complete substitute for its text.

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