Millions of unemployed Americans faced an income “precipice” in July when the extra $ 600 in pandemic unemployment benefits came to an end. But millions more are now facing another – and perhaps more terrible – blow to their income as they exhaust all their unemployment options at both the state and federal levels.
“People say, ‘Oh my God, I’m running out of money,’ and they have no idea what’s going to happen,” said Alex Emanuel, a New York-based actor, director and musician whose unemployment aid ran out two months ago.
The problem is affecting a range of workers, including people who lost their jobs towards the end of 201
These benefits aren’t particularly generous – the typical weekly unemployment allowance is $ 333 per week – but jobless adults tell CBS MoneyWatch that the extra money has helped them pay for necessities like utilities and rent.
Jobless workers also say they are frustrated with the lack of progress in Washington, D.C., in trying to pull off another one., who would have renewed the extra $ 600 in weekly aid, and express eagerness to make it as their benefits run out. According to unemployment experts, the cuts could create greater economic headwinds as millions of unemployed workers find themselves without income.
“I was really worried about what would happen when the $ 600 goes away, but when people lose even the basic benefit, people will become desperate,” said Michele Evermore, senior policy analyst at the National Employment Law Project. “You will see this pain spreading more and more in the economy”.
While there are no exact figures on how many jobless workers are losing their unemployment aid, the figure is likely to reach into the millions within the next few months, according to Andrew Stettner, an unemployment expert at the Progressive Century Foundation.
For example, PUA has offered 39 weeks of pay for people who have lost their gigs or freelance jobs as of January 27, meaning early applicants will run out of benefits the week of October 19. Meanwhile, all 11 million beneficiaries of the program face a tough deadline of 31 December, the date set for the program’s deadline.
Even with unemployment aid extensions, it’s not enough to protect Americans out of work while unemployment remains high, noted Chad Stone, chief economist at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. According to Columbia University researchers, the CARES Act lifted 18 million people out of poverty, but many have gone back since that extra money ran out. The poverty rate is now higher than it was before the pandemic, they found.
“The CARES Act measures have been quite generous,” Stone said. The loss of benefits “will hit hard and people may be surprised.”
“Making absolute zero”
Workers who lost their jobs in the second half of 2019 are among the first to remain without aid. “I filed for unemployment in August 2019 due to the lack of acting job at the time,” unemployed New York-based actor Emanuel, 49, told CBS MoneyWatch. “My application originally ended in April, but then they got these extensions” due to the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, or CARES, Act.
But after she ran out of all her extensions, her jobless pay ended in August. “I was doing absolute zero,” he said.
Emanuel said he was banned from benefits for a month. Because New Yorkers can apply for more jobless aid after a full calendar year has passed since their previous jobless claim, she asked for assistance again. He now receives about $ 170 a week after tax, less than the $ 230 he received in his previous jobless aid round. This is because the benefit is based on the previous year’s earnings of a worker who was affected by the pandemic. He said he has cut spending and transportation costs to make ends meet.
Some people are already dreading the end of their unemployment benefits. Joe Symon, 53, a New York-based actor, said his benefits will expire in March and isn’t sure how he can cut more than he already has. He said he receives about $ 130 in jobless weekly aid and his family is helping pay the rent.
“It’s very hard to smile or do everyday tasks, including getting out of bed, if you don’t know where your next dollar will come from,” Symon said.
“They said I ran out of everything”
Another jobless worker whose aid has recently expired is Mary Cahoon, 43, of Oakdale, Connecticut. In March, she was fired from her job as an administrative assistant when the pandemic hit. Its benefits ran out last week.
“They said I ran out of everything,” he said.
Cahoon said he saved up some money when he received the extra $ 600 in jobless weekly aid. After it expired in July, his unemployment allowance dropped to $ 317 a week, which is about $ 200 less than what he earned in his job. He said he sent in about 100 resumes and got 10 interviews, but he didn’t get an offer.
“I’m not too panicked right now – we’re better off than a lot of people,” Cahoon said, noting that her husband is an employee. But she fears that the money she has set aside this summer will run out before she gets a new job or if a new round of stimulus aid is extended.
“Right now things are covered,” he said, “but it will eventually end.”
Some jobless workers may not be aware that they qualify for some extensions, such as Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation, or PEUC, which provides an additional 13 weeks of help to unemployed workers who exhaust their regular state benefits, experts said.
About 3 million workers ran out of regular state subsidies as of August, but only 2 million benefit from extensions offered by the CARES law. This suggests that some people may be missing out on benefits, Stettner said.
“There has been abandonment and confusion regarding the move from state benefits to extensions,” he added.
PEUC eligibility is an issue facing Shawnda Rice, 40, a bartender from Cincinnati. His bar has been closed since March when he filed for unemployment. She said she stopped receiving state benefits three weeks ago, but was told she did not qualify for PEUC. She was later informed that she was, in fact, eligible for the program. Rice is now in limbo, unsure whether she will receive further help.
“I’m stressed out,” she said. “I don’t know where the money came from. When the bills came last week, I called and asked for an extension.”
Rice also worries about how she will pay her bills in the coming months and when her grocery supplies run out. She hopes her bar will reopen for Halloween, but she is also concerned about COVID-19 as she has recurring problems with pleurisy, a lung disease. Bar patrons can take off their drinking masks around the house, which could increase the risk of infection.
Asked what she would tell lawmakers who are now negotiating a new stimulus package, so far to no avail, Rice said, “It’s not just about you. What matters is caring for the American people.”