Unpopular and Unproductive: The $300 Unemployment Boost

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Congress recently passed legislation to add a weekly $300 boost to unemployment insurance (UI) payments. Congress passed a similar boost back in March 2020 of $600 that expired in July. Before it expired, the boost had terrible effects.

In March, as businesses and elected officials were first responding to the COVID pandemic, Congress passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. The massive omnibus contained a lot of controversial provisions, with one being the $600 weekly UI boost. The extra $600 was supposed to help individuals as the mandated lockdowns began in early 2020, but the unintended consequences were predictable.

Really, the $600 boost turned out to be more lucrative than work for many recipients. On average, recipients of the boost were paid the equivalent of more than $50,000 per year. For many, this made remaining unemployed more enticing and comfortable than finding a new job and earning a living.