Millions to lose pandemic unemployment in September
According to estimates from The Century Foundation, a left-wing think tank, around 7.5 million workers who relied on unemployment benefits during the pandemic will be completely cut off from unemployment assistance when they expire on September 6.
As of mid-July, around 9.4 million people were on Unemployment Pandemic Assistance (PUA), which covers those who have traditionally not been eligible for assistance, including freelancers and workers. in concert, and Pandemic Unemployment Emergency Compensation (PEUC), which extends assistance to those who have exhausted their state’s benefit period. Workers on either of these programs represent more than 72% of Americans receiving unemployment insurance, according to the Department of Labor.
The programs, which support people who would normally fall through the cracks of the unemployment system, were established in the CARES Act of March 2020 and extended through Labor Day 2021 through the US bailout. When pandemic unemployment was last extended in March 2021, it prevented an estimated 11.4 million people from falling off the “cliff of benefits”.
Many cut aid early
While pandemic unemployment programs officially operate until September, the governors of 26 states stepped down in early June and July. The measures have left some 1.6 million workers without any unemployment assistance over the past month, according to a statement by Andrew Stettner, senior researcher at the Century Foundation.
Anna Keeton, 32, of Memphis, Tennessee, stopped receiving PUA benefits after July 3. could increase their risk of serious illness if they contract Covid. Keeton was unable to find a new job due to a worsening condition and, until last month, said the benefits of the PUA, which amounted to less than what they were earning while working, helped them stay on top of bills and essential groceries.
Since July, Keeton has been coping with the financial help of friends and family. “If it weren’t for my friends and family, if I didn’t have this community, I would be in my car,” Keeton told CNBC Make It. “That’s if I could keep my car. Otherwise, I’d be on the street or in a shelter.”
In Atlanta, Jennifer Askew, 39, said her PUA benefits were “a lifeline” for staying in her apartment, paying for utilities and shopping for groceries. The State of Georgia stopped providing PUAs on June 27.
The single mother of two daughters works as a court reporter on the basis of a 1099 contract. Without PUA, she would not be entitled to unemployment assistance to compensate for lost wages. Askew’s job opportunities have been extremely inconsistent since state emergency judicial orders restricted court operations at the start of the pandemic.
Askew used up her savings to pay her bills before her PUA payments started in the spring of 2020, and her payments were less than what she was making working full time. She says she recently had to turn off her cell phone service to buy food.
Every month for the past year and a half, Askew has had to wait and see if the emergency court order would be lifted so she could get back to work. Work picked up a bit in June, but without an additional PUA it’s still not enough to make ends meet. “Now I’m just borrowing and falling behind. I don’t know what’s going to happen.”
She is frustrated that lawmakers are allowing benefits to expire for millions of Americans like her, if they haven’t already been cut by their state.
“While some areas of employment are returning to normal, others have been forgotten,” Askew said. “And with the delta variant starting to rise again, I’m worried. Will they shut down the courts or ban gatherings again? With so much uncertainty around [Covid], this is the worst time to end benefits. “
The end of the aid did not stimulate hiring
Critics of Pandemic Aid said generous benefits, including a weekly supplement of $ 600 that fell to $ 300 a week last summer, kept people from taking on new jobs that would boost the economy. Many employers, especially in the leisure and hospitality industries, have struggled to fill a growing number of vacancies as consumer activity has picked up since the spring.
But Census Bureau data suggests recipients haven’t rushed to find jobs in states that cut pandemic aid early, according to research by Arindrajit Dube, professor of economics at the ‘University of Massachusetts Amherst.
Previous research has suggested that financial aid has not prevented people from taking a job, but rather the availability of paid work; individual worker health and safety concerns; and access to child care all play an important role in whether or not a suitable job can be found during the pandemic.
All three are concerns for Samantha Lyons, 48, of Kansas. She ran her own business as a real estate consultant, but lost all of her job once the pandemic hit. The last time she received a PUA benefit was December 26, 2020. Over the past seven months, she contacted everyone she could think of to understand why her claim was being flagged for fraudulent activity. Without access to her benefits, she had to take out payday loans, get into debt, ruin her credit and lose her home.
Two months ago, she moved with her 15-year-old twins to Seattle, where she has two grown children who they can stay with for part of the week. Lyons and her twins live in a hotel the rest of the week. She has an underlying illness and does not feel safe working in person. And most of the remote jobs she’s applied to say they’ll be coming back to the office soon.
The disruption has been devastating for her two teenagers, who need help during the day to complete distance learning. “My kids have lost their homes twice in nine months,” Lyons says. “They failed school. They are depressed. They have both been suicidal. It destroyed their lives. They can’t even be children.”
The inconsistency also makes his own job search impossible: “For people without PUAs who are now homeless, how are you going to work if you don’t have a place to shower and have a good night’s sleep? “
What Lyons really needs, she says, is to finally be approved for Covid relief by the Small Business Administration so she can get her business back on track.
“If I suspend my activity, I will lose my activity,” she says. “I’m going to lose everything I put in there. Trust me, I don’t want their PUA. I want my business back.”
Unemployed people worry about the delta variant
The increase in Covid cases due to the contagious delta variant makes it even more difficult to find suitable employment.
For Lyons, who is immunocompromised, the minimum-wage part-time jobs available in her area present more risks than opportunities. She is concerned about in-person workers whose workplaces do not enforce Covid health and safety protocols, such as vaccine requirements, masking or social distancing.
“I am all my kids have,” she says. “I’m not going to put myself in danger for $ 8 an hour that won’t even pay the rent.”
In Tennessee, Keeton doesn’t expect Congress to extend aid again until September. They are already planning to move across the country to Colorado to live with a friend if they can’t find another way to pay the bills.
Even if an extension is granted, they fear the governors will end state-by-state federal aid. “I think this could be more devastating than what the people of Congress are prepared for,” Keeton said.
If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide or self-harm, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. on this link or by calling 1-800-273-TALK. The hotline is open 24/7.
Latest increase in unemployment is “too little, too late”, say workers: “They forgot about us a long time ago”
CDC extending federal moratorium on evictions expected to cover around 90% of tenants
I’m putting my whole life on hold ‘: How workers are tackling Covid burnout
Register now: Be smarter about your money and career with our weekly newsletter