WASHINGTON (ABC7) — Protesters marched to the D.C. home of Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell Wednesday afternoon, demanding an extension of pandemic unemployment benefits that may soon be reduced or expire.
Among the protesters were people left unemployed by COVID-19 who say a $600 a week unemployment benefit has helped them survive.
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"Without the $600, we would be in dire straits," said protester LaMarr Houston of D.C., whose family includes seven children. "With the kids being home during the pandemic, it helps an awful lot, because there's always something needed, there's always something that has to be done."
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In addition to protesting outside McConnell's home on Capitol Hill protesters brought in two trucks, one with an electronic billboard and another pulling a trailer with a band playing go-go music on it with a banner that says "Mitch Better Have My Money."
The band was able to get within about a half-block of McConnell's home. That's as close as U.S. Capitol Police and truck restrictions near the Capitol would allow.
Republicans in the U.S. Senate are considering reducing the amount of COVID benefits. Some argue that a payroll tax cut would do more to help get people off unemployment and back to work.
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"What has helped millions of people survive - just barely survive - has been this pandemic unemployment insurance of 600 dollars a week," said Ana Maria Archila, one of the organizers of the protest. "It is all of our money. They should be giving it to people to survive instead of giving it to corporations that don't need it."
But some Republicans say the government can't afford to keep extending the benefit at the same amount.
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"The money we're shoveling out doesn't fix the problem. We've got to get people to go back to work," said U.S. Senator Ted Cruz (R - Texas). "You suspend the payroll tax, which means your wages are higher. It also means that the small business who's employing you - it reduces their cost of bringing employees back. So it's a win-win."
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Senate Republicans are trying to come to an agreement on another coronavirus relief bill, and it's unclear how much they're willing to spend to continue the unemployment insurance related to pandemic job losses.