Council passed a resolution calling on the PA state legislature to reject House Bill 508, which would preemptively cut off unemployment benefits for thousands of Philadelphians hit hardest by the pandemic.
PHILADELPHIA—City Council unanimously passed a resolution urging the Pennsylvania General Assembly and Governor Tom Wolf to reject House Bill 508, intended to end Pennsylvania’s participation in three federal pandemic unemployment benefit programs. Co-introduced by Councilmembers Kendra Brooks (At-Large) and Derek Green (At-Large), the resolution calls attention to the potentially devastating impact that the “Coerce to Work” bill would have on Philadelphia’s communities hit the hardest by the pandemic, including Black and brown people, immigrants, caregivers, and poor and working class people.
House Bill 508 would end Pennsylvania’s participation in the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) program, which provides unemployed individuals an extra $300 per week in addition to state-provided unemployment compensation. Additionally, the legislation would end Pennsylvania’s participation in three lifesaving federal pandemic unemployment benefit programs: the Pandemic Unemployment Compensation Program, the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Program, and the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation Program.
The resolution is co-sponsored by Councilmembers Allan Domb (At-Large), Jamie Gauthier (3rd District), Katherine Gilmore Richardson (At-Large), Helen Gym (At-Large), Bobby Henon (6th District), Kenyatta Johnson (2nd District), Cherelle Parker (9th District), Maria Quiñones-Sánchez (4th District), and Isaiah Thomas (At-Large).
Over one million residents in Pennsylvania rely on these programs for housing costs, food and medicine, and childcare. Additionally, the Commonwealth’s economy stands to lose roughly $6.7 billion in consumer spending, or roughly $6,390 per worker through September 6, 2021 should this bill pass. Eliminating the programs would have a significant impact on the financial stability of nontraditional workers such as gig workers, domestic workers, and self-run business owners, who are excluded from the traditional state unemployment program. Economists have repeatedly dismissed unsupported claims by Republican lawmakers that perceived labor shortages were induced by extensive federal stimulus payment and unemployment benefits.
“The myth that unemployment benefits are to blame for perceived labor shortages is not only widely disputed by experts, it reinforces an anti-poor and anti-working class agenda championed by Republicans,” said Councilmember Kendra Brooks (At-Large). “We need to work together to build a more just economy and society for all Pennsylvanians, to win a livable minimum wage and fair working conditions for everyone. Preemptively gutting benefits at this time is not only cruel, but will derail an equitable pandemic recovery.”
“The last thing we want to do is add undue hardship to the lives of hardworking people who have already suffered tremendous loss and endured the disproportionate effects of this pandemic, in addition to disrupting the progress we’ve made in our economic recovery and that is precisely what H.B. 508 would do,” said Councilmember Derek Green (At-Large). “For many Pennsylvanians, the aforementioned federal pandemic assistance programs have been the only lifelines keeping them afloat. They deserve to have these safety nets remain intact until we can confidently declare that our economy is stabilized.”