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JOBLESS Unlikely leaders find compromise

The OBSERVER’s View

Over the course of three months, more than half of the leisure and hospitality jobs, 1,300 manufacturing jobs and 5,900 service industry jobs in our county vanished into thin air.

Unemployment in our county has more than doubled from January to July. While some of those 7,000 unemployed county residents may well be people who tried to stay out of work until their Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation payments ended on July 31, we have a feeling a majority of our county’s unemployed would love to hear that they can go back to work. How else to explain an increase in the county labor force, which is defined as the number of people actively looking for a job?

People should be frustrated with Congress for not arriving at some sort of compromise on a jobless extension before leaving for a recess. Somehow, in the midst of a rousing game of political hot potato President Donald Trump and Gov. Andrew Cuomo managed to arrive at a compromise even as they snipped and sniped at each other.

Trump issued an executive order allowing states to opt into a $400 in federal unemployment benefits that can be added to a state’s existing benefit, with the requirement that states would pay a quarter of the cost. Cuomo told the president he wasn’t interested, arguing that paying a quarter of the federal benefit at a time when the state was already borrowing to pay for New York’s unemployment benefit was bad policy. The president then allowed the states to count their existing unemployment benefits as their share, and Cuomo signed on.

Of course, there are still problems to be ironed out. Some states have been approved for federal money but don’t have the systems in place to get the money to people who need it. Some aren’t giving people the full $400 a week the president promised. And, there is only enough funding for about five weeks of payments.

But the bigger lesson is this — Trump and Cuomo, two people who will most certainly not be sending each other Christmas cards this December, managed to bridge the gap for New Yorkers who desperately need additional help. If Trump and Cuomo can muzzle their sniping a little bit, can’t Republicans and Democrats in Congress come back to the table and renew the federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation program?

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