Mnuchin on $600 Unemployment Benefit: We Can’t Be ‘Paying People More to Stay Home’

Sunday on ABC’s “This Week,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said the $600 unemployment benefits for Americans during the coronavirus pandemic was giving people an incentive to stay away from work.

Mnuchin said, “Unemployment is supposed to be wage replacement, so it should be tied to some percentage of wages.”

He added, “The fact that we had a flat number was only an issue of an emergency, 30-year-old computer systems. So I think on the concept we absolutely agree on enhanced unemployment, we want to fix the issue. In some cases, people are overpaid, and we want to make sure there’s the right incentives. We put on a table a proposal, let’s extend at the same rate white we negotiate.”

Host Martha Raddatz said, “Do think it’s a disincentive to find a job if you have that extra $600?”

Mnuchin said, “There’s no question in certain cases where we’re paying people more to stay home than to work, that’s created issues in the entire economy. But let me just say—”

Raddatz said, “I want to interrupt you for just one second, it’s all the evidence, a Yale study from this month refutes that, saying many economists who have studied the benefits saying so far they don’t see any evidence in labor market data that the payments are affecting the rate of people are returning to work.”

Mnuchin said, “I went to Yale. There’s a Chicago study that goes through all the people who are overpaid. We know factually, OK, there are cases where people are overpaid, there are cases where people are underpaid. The issue is, we need to come up with an agreement to extend this. We need to get kids into school. We’re going to work every day until we reach a reasonable agreement that’s good for the American public.”

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