With a staggering number of Americans still unable to work and filing for unemployment ,it is inexcusable that Mitch McConnell sent the Senate home leaving the HEROES Act, the next coronavirus economic relief package, not even debated. And now, as the virus wreaks havoc across the country, peaking and continuing to spread in a majority of states, laid off workers have yet another burden to face in the coming weeks: the end of the $600 unemployment benefits provided by the CARES Act.

This additional $600 stipend, set to expire at the end of July, has quite literally meant the roof over their head or even life or death for millions of America’s families. It’s given families the ability to pay for their rent or mortgage, make car payments, or afford groceries and prescriptions.

Let’s be clear: Nobody wants to be unemployed. A job is about more than a paycheck — it’s a source of dignity. Millions are out of work through no fault of their own. Unless the Senate passes the HEROES Act, which proposes continuing these payments into January, people will needlessly suffer and our communities will be even harder hit than they have been already. Our economy will continue to spiral downward and any recovery will take even longer.

It’s time to pass the HEROES Act, extend unemployment and keep working people whole.

Cynthia Phinney, president, Maine AFL-CIO, Livermore Falls

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