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Unemployed Coloradans Worry Benefits Will Be Cut As Congress Negotiates New Relief Package

DENVER (CBS4)- Another round of $1,200 stimulus checks could be in the mail soon. Democratic and Republican leaders are negotiating a new relief package. They agree on direct payments to low and middle income Americans, but they disagree on expanded unemployment benefits.

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File photo of money. (photo: BAY ISMOYO/AFP/Getty Images)

House Democrats passed a $3 trillion relief bill that extends an extra $600 a week unemployment benefit through January. It expires this week.

Senate Republicans unveiled a $1 trillion proposal that lowers the benefit significantly.

Unemployed restaurant workers, including Elise Dantzler in Denver, are among those urging Congress to continue the extra $600 a week.

"My unemployment amount is about $350 a week, without that $600. My rent is $1,000 a month, which is less than average for Denver… giving me $300 a month left over to pay all my other bills is just impossible."

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Dantzler is among 400,000 Coloradans who are now unemployed. The Colorado Department of Labor says their average wage when working was $636 a week. The state replaces 55% of that wage or $350 a week. But, with the extra $600 from the federal government, they get on average $950 a week in unemployment, more than some of them made while working.

"It's made a difference for some small businesses to bring employees back to work," says Tony Gagliardi, State Director of the National Federation of Independent Businesses.

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He says the expanded unemployment has made it difficult for some Colorado businesses to reopen, "Why are we not making that an incentive to return to work? Why are we looking at incentives to stay away from work?"

The Senate Republicans proposal would cut the extra benefit from $600 to $200 a week for two months and then have states move to a 70% wage replacement. In Colorado, that would make the average unemployment check $450 a week instead of $950.

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Dantzler said she's having trouble making ends meet now, "It literally is a matter of life and death, so many people are facing eviction now, even though we had that moratorium, it's over now, people are going to be kicked out because they have no way to pay their bills."

The Republican proposal also differs from Democrats in that there are no eviction protections and no new money for state and local governments. The proposal does include new money for COVID-19 testing and schools.

Congress is set to begin its summer recess in two weeks.

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