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Unemployment benefits run out of millions: “People get desperate”



Millions of unemployed Americans faced a “cut” in income as the extra $ 600 in pandemic unemployment benefits ended. But millions more are now facing another – and perhaps more serious – hit by their income as they exhaust all of their unemployment opportunities 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 come, ‘said Alex Emanuel, an actor, filmmaker and musician in New York whose unemployment assistance ran out for two months since .

The issue affects a number of workers, including people who lost their jobs at the end of 201

9 and have undergone several extensions of unemployment benefits provided by Congress earlier this year. Gig-economy workers and others who took advantage of the federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program early in the crisis are also running out of help.

These benefits are not very generous – the typical weekly unemployment check amounts to $ 333 a week – but out-of-work adults tell CBS MoneyWatch that the extra money has helped them pay for necessities such as utilities and rent.

Unemployed workers also say they are frustrated by the lack of progress in Washington, DC, in hammering another out stimulus bill, who would have renewed the extra $ 600 in weekly assistance, and they express concern about coping when their benefits dry up. The cuts could create more economic headwinds as millions of unemployed workers find themselves without income, according to unemployment experts.

“I was really worried about what would happen when $ 600 disappeared, but when people even lose the basic benefit, people get desperate,” said Michele Evermore, senior policy analyst at the National Employment Law Project. “You will see this pain spread further and further into the economy.”


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While there are no hard figures for how many unemployed workers will lose their unemployment benefits, the number is likely to run into millions within the next few months, according to Andrew Stettner, an unemployment expert at the Progressive Century Foundation.

For example, the PUA offered 39 weeks’ pay to people who lost their concerts or freelance work that started on January 27, which means the first plaintiffs will exhaust their benefits the week of October 19. Meanwhile, all of the programme’s 11 million recipients face a tough deadline on December 31, when the program is scheduled to expire.

Even with the extensions to unemployment benefits, it is not enough to protect unemployed Americans from, while unemployment remains high, noted Chad Stone, chief economist at the Center for Budget and Political Priorities. The CARES law lifted 18 million people out of poverty, but many have gone back since the extra money expired, according to researchers from Columbia University. The poverty rate is now higher than it was before the pandemic, they found.

“The CARES Act measures were pretty generous,” Stone said. The loss of benefits “hits hard and people may be surprised.”

“Make absolute zero”

Workers who lost their jobs in the second half of 2019 are among the first to run out of help. “I applied for unemployment in August 2019 due to a lack of acting work at the time,” unemployed New York actor Emanuel, 49, told CBS MoneyWatch. “My claim was originally completed in April, but then they had these extensions” due to the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, or CARES, Act.

But after exhausting all his extensions, his jobless salary ended in August. “I made absolutely zero,” he said.

Emanuel said he was cut off from benefits for a month. Because New Yorkers can request more unemployment assistance after an entire calendar year has passed from their previous unemployment claims, he again applied for assistance. He now receives about $ 170 a week after tax – less than the $ 230 he received in his previous round of unemployment benefits. This is because the benefit is based on an employee’s earnings from the previous year, which received a hit from the pandemic. He said he has cut back on groceries and transportation costs to make ends meet.

img-5147-facetune-19-05-2019-13-40-17.jpg Joe Symon had written a play that was about to start production on March 13, but when the pandemic closed businesses – including theaters and television productions in New York – his show was canceled and he became unemployed. He said he has cut back on spending and is getting help from the family to cope, but is concerned about the loss of his unemployment benefits in March 2021.

Joe Symon


Some people already fear the end of their unemployment benefits. Joe Symon, 53, an actor in New York, said his benefits expire in March and he is unsure how he can reduce more than he already has. He said he gets about $ 130 in weekly help for the unemployed and his family helps pay his rent.

“It’s very hard to smile or walk daily, including getting out of bed if you do not know where your next dollar is coming from,” Symon said.

“They said I had exhausted everything”

Another unemployed worker whose assistance recently expired is Mary Cahoon, 43, of Oakdale, Connecticut. She was fired in March from her job as an administrative assistant when the pandemic hit. Her benefits ran dry last week.

“They said I had exhausted everything,” she said.

Cahoon said she put some money aside when she received the extra $ 600 in weekly unemployment benefits. After this expired in July, her unemployment check dropped to $ 317 a week, or approx. $ 200 less than she had earned in her job. She said she sent about 100 resumes and got 10 interviews but has not received an offer.

“I’m not panicking right now – we’re better off than a lot of people,” Cahoon said, noting that her husband is employed. But she is worried that the money she has set aside for the summer will run out before she finds a new job or if a new round of stimulus assistance is extended.

“Right now, things are covered,” she said, “but it’s running out eventually.”

Confusing programs

Some unemployed 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 assistance to unemployed workers who exhaust their regular state benefits, experts said.

About 3 million workers have exhausted their normal state benefits through August, but only 2 million are on extensions offered under the CARES Act. This suggests that some people may be missing out on benefits, Stettner said.

“There have been drop-offs and confusion about making it move from government benefits to expansions,” he added.


Break down the latest available numbers

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Qualifying for PEUC is a problem facing Shawnda Rice, 40, a bartender in Cincinnati. Her bar has been closed since March when she applied for unemployment. She said she stopped receiving government benefits three weeks ago but was told she did not qualify for PEUC. She was later informed that she is actually eligible for the program. Now Rice is in limbo, unsure if she will get more help.

“I’m stressed,” she said. “I do not know where the money is coming from. When the bills came due last week, I called and asked for an extension.”

Rice also worries about how she will pay the bills over the next few months and when her grocery inventory is low. She’s hoping her bar might reopen for Halloween, but she’s also worried about COVID-19 as she has recurring pneumonia problems, a pneumonia. Bar borrowers are allowed to remove their masks for drinking indoors, which can increase the risk of infection.

Asked what she would tell lawmakers now negotiating a new stimulus package, so far to no avail, Rice said: “It’s not just about you. What matters is taking care of the American people.”


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