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Here’s what could happen if the U.S. suspends federal pandemic unemployment benefits

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(AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh, File)

President Donald Trump on Saturday issued several executive actions meant to bypass a stalemate in Congress over the details of another economic stimulus package for people and businesses affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. The measures are likely to face legal and fiscal challenges, and are designed only as a stopgap until Congress can agree on a financial package. Hanging in the balance is the pandemic unemployment benefit—and cutting it permanently could spell disaster for the country’s economy, says Northeastern economist William Dickens.

“It’s a disaster waiting to happen,” says Dickens, university distinguished professor of economics and social policy.

The existing stimulus package expired at the end of July, meaning that the more than 31 million people in the U.S. who are unemployed as a result of the pandemic are starting their second week of drastically slimmer checks. One of the sticking points for legislators has been whether to reinstate the federally funded $600-per-week COVID unemployment benefit, and if so, how much to allot. 

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