'Over our dead bodies': Sen. Graham opposes added unemployment relief — COVID-19 death toll be damned

'Over our dead bodies': Sen. Graham opposes added unemployment relief — COVID-19 death toll be damned
Gage Skidmore

The concept of a living wage is apparently still unfathomable for South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, who on Wednesday promised he would do everything in his power to fight an extension of federal coronavirus relief that would give those who are unemployed an extra $600 a week, according to The Post and Courier. “I promise you over our dead bodies will this get reauthorized,” Graham said of himself and Republican Sen. Tim Scott. “We’ve got to stop this.”

Graham was speaking to business leaders in the state when he made the promise regarding the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. “My dad owned a bar, a liquor store and a pool room. I have walked in your shoes,” he reportedly said. “If you pay people $23 an hour not to work, they will take you up on it. It doesn’t mean they’re lazy. It means if you offer them $23 an hour not to work, they’ll probably take that over $17 to go to work.”

Despite legislators passing the CARES Act earlier this month, the unprecedented number of claims resulting from the coronavirus pandemic has triggered processing delays and the legislation is set to expire July 31, according to The New York Times. It already doesn’t cover everyone in need. Despite states like Georgia and Tennessee prematurely ending stay-at-home orders and forcing employees back to work before doing so is safe, "voluntarily deciding to quit your job out of a general concern about exposure to COVID-19 does not make you eligible” for the unemployment relief, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

While Democrats advocate for ways to make sure that at least Americans who qualify for the assistance get it, Republicans are fighting to make sure the protections vanish without extension. Oklahoma Democratic Rep. Kendra Horn tweeted Wednesday: "Oklahoma hasn't even successfully implemented unemployment assistance for all those who need it and who qualify under the CARES Act. But already, state officials are discussing how to cut relief for Oklahomans out of work and in crisis. This is shameful."

Florida Democratic Rep. Margaret Good asked the Department of Labor to expedite the process. "Independent &GIG workers shouldn’t have to be kept in limbo because the state cant fix UI system," she tweeted Friday.

Graham’s response to employers who are worried that their employees won’t return to work when doors reopen doesn’t even attempt to provide context on behalf of workers. He instead gave the employers advice on ways to strategize and keep the masses at bay.

Responding to a local labor department suggestion that business owners report instances of workers turning down work to his agency, which can stop unemployment benefits for those in need, Graham said: “It’s probably smart to enforce that in a practical way but not go too far to create a war between the employer and employee.”

“You cannot turn on the economy until you get this aberration in the law fixed,” he added in The Post and Courier. “Your challenge is, what do you do between now and July 31? You don’t want a bunch of people coming back pissed off at you.”

Apparently, nothing says employers care like forcing workers back to risky jobs during a deadly pandemic.

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