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Unemployment benefits: 12 million Americans could lose assistance just after Christmas



Since March, Montgomery – a New Yorker who also works as a voice teacher and travel guide – has not been able to find steady work, but he has received weekly payments thanks to the historic expansion of benefits under the $ 2 trillion federal stimulus package. But now that Congress has stopped at a new emergency deal, the pandemic unemployment assistance program is running just after Christmas.

If that happens, Montgomery and his wife, a part-time home assistant, can go to Japan, where Montgomery’s wife is from, or Hong Kong, where he lived for 12 years and thinks he can get a job.

“I had hoped our wonderful Congress would have figured it out by now,”

; said Montgomery, 63. “We pay rent. We would put the money back into the economy. It’s not like we just want to hoard it. to use it. “

Montgomery is among the 7.3 million self-employed entrepreneurs, gig workers, freelancers and self-employed who are losing unemployment benefits, according to a recent estimate from The Century Foundation. The program is also available to certain people affected by coronavirus, including those who are ill or in quarantine or have family members who are, and those whose primary schools are closed.

Another measure, the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation program, is also due to expire. One gives the unemployed an additional 13 weeks of payments after exhausting their traditional government benefits, which typically last 26 weeks. About 4.6 million recipients will see these extra payments expire prematurely unless Congress acts, the Century Foundation estimated – and many of these people are not eligible for extended government benefits, which can last up to 20 weeks.

Closures in March have a lasting effect

The number of long-term unemployed has risen steadily as an increasing number of people are unable to land jobs more than six months after being unleashed in the record-breaking wave of unemployment that followed the pandemic beginning in March and April. Nearly 3.6 million Americans were out of work for at least 27 weeks in October, a stunning jump of nearly 50% from September, according to the latest federal jobs report. They now account for a third of the unemployed from less than one-fifth a month earlier.

“We have never cut unemployment benefits when so many people are collecting, when unemployment is so high, so early in a recession,” said Andrew Stettner, a senior fellow at the Century Foundation.

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However, Congress has not been able to agree on another stimulus package to extend many of the relief measures it adopted in March. Far away is the $ 600 federal boost to weekly unemployment benefits that expired in late July despite heavy lobbying from the unemployed, consumer advocates and Democrats.

The looming end to the remaining pandemic unemployment programs comes as coronavirus cases rise across the country, prompting more governors to renew restrictions on businesses and schools. This is likely to lead to new rounds of layoffs – already initial unemployment claims rose in mid-November for the first time in a month.
And it comes like several other federal rescue initiatives, including postponing moratoriums and postponing student loan payments, putting extra pressure on the unemployed.

‘Amazing’ passivity in Washington

The “indifference” shown by lawmakers is “astonishing,” said America Caballero, who lost his contract job as an oil and gas company staffer in late April.

Caballero will soon exhaust her state benefits, and her pandemic emergency payments are likely to end before she gets the full 13 weeks. She is concerned that the state’s extended benefits, which she will then receive, will also run out next year before she is able to find work.

America Caballero calls

“Every time Congress tries to do something, it breaks down because they can’t get over their disagreements,” said Caballero, 45, who lives with his mother and sister in a suburb of Houston. “The American people are suffering.”

Meanwhile, job postings have been scarce and fewer have been published recently, she said. And many of those she sees pay $ 35,000 to $ 45,000 a year instead of the more typical $ 55,000 to $ 60,000 they offered before the pandemic.

“We want jobs. We do not want a handout,” said Caballero, who has a master’s degree in business administration. “We want the economy to stabilize.”

A triple whammy

Gabbie Riley faces a triple whammy when it comes to landing a new job to replace what she lost in late March.

Gabbie Riley says jobs are scarce in the hotel, sports and entertainment industries.

She worked in sales for a hotel in Minneapolis with a focus on booking customers in sports and entertainment. All of these industries have shrunk in the pandemic.

While the 39-year-old expects to switch from the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation program to extended benefits next month, she does not think she will be able to find another job until those payments expire in March.

“Congress must provide ample support to the individual, the small businesses and the large affected businesses until we are out of the woods. Period,” said Riley, who lives in St. Louis. Paul, Minnesota, with his son practically going to college.


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