SPRINGFIELD, MA (WGGB/WSHM) -- The unemployment picture remains dim - after an additional 2.4 million Americans filed claims last week, close to nearly 40,000 here in Massachusetts.

This as the latest stimulus package awaits further action in Congress.

Congressman Neal told Western Mass News that these new numbers spark a need for negotiations on the HEROES act - the largest relief package in history.

"It certainly heightens the urgency," said Congressman Richard Neal.

The newest job data shows 2.4 million Americans filed for unemployment last week according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

In the last nine weeks, since the outbreak of COVID-19 and the national shutdown - 38.6 million Americans have applied for unemployment benefits.

"The unemployment rate is likely to go to 20 percent, so I think that reminds us just how critical the unemployment insurance is," Neal noted.

Here in Massachusetts, more than 38,000 new claims were filed last week -down from the highest spike of 200,000 in the last week of March.

Neal- at a press conference in Springfield - told us that the new unemployment numbers spark a need for negotiations on the HEROES Act - a $3 trillion relief package passed by the house last week, but a document senate republicans have said is dead on arrival.

"Safe to say we have to get past some of the rhetoric from Senator McConnell, who said that it was a non-starter and just a reminder he said that the previous four rounds were non-starters," Neal explained.

Neal said he is hopeful negotiations will begin.

"I think they will by the way because everybody acknowledges the problem even if we have a temporary disagreement on the solution everyone acknowledges the nature of the problem," Neal said.

We also looked into the state's reopening plan and what Neal thinks of beginning phase 1.

"We should come down on the side of science and facts. I don’t think this is about to pull into consideration," Neal said.

He also said the curve has flattened because of the state’s protocols, but fears reopening too soon will cause a second wave.

"People have adhered to social distancing and they’re also wearing the masks so I think that’s part of what is occurring," Neal said.

Coming up later on Western Mass News - we hear from a local business owner who has had to close 4 different restaurants during the shutdown and is now slowly preparing to reopen.

Copyright 2020 Western Mass News (Meredith Corporation).  All rights reserved.

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