This is the last week of $600 unemployment benefits

The end is near for the $600 federal lifeline for millions of unemployed Americans -- even though the economy is still far from recovered from the coronavirus pandemic and new layoffs are being announced regularly.

Posted: Jul 19, 2020 10:41 AM
Updated: Jul 19, 2020 2:20 PM

The end is near for the $600 federal lifeline for millions of unemployed Americans -- even though the economy is still far from recovered from the coronavirus pandemic and new layoffs are being announced regularly.

The coronavirus relief program technically doesn't expire until July 31, but this coming week will be the last for which benefits are paid -- because payments are only provided for weeks ending on either Saturday or Sunday.

Jobless Americans will still get state unemployment benefits, but the sunset of the Congress' $600 enhancement -- part of the $2 trillion economic aid package passed in March -- will leave more than 25 million people thousands of dollars poorer each month. And it will expose more of the real pain of mass unemployment, just as many states are reimposing shutdowns.

'These emergency unemployment benefits have been propping up families and propping up the economy now for several months, said Kali Grant, senior policy analyst at the Georgetown Center on Poverty & Inequality. 'Ending the benefits prematurely will really set back any economic recovery that may have been on the way.'

Congressional lawmakers are beginning to work this week on the next economic stimulus package. But it's unlikely they'll agree on -- much less approve -- the next step to help unemployed Americans before the payments lapse.

The provision was controversial from the start, mainly because the $600 boost, when added to state benefits, is more than what two-thirds of workers made on the job, according to an estimate from University of Chicago researchers.

But lawmakers approved it in late March as part of a historic expansion of the nation's unemployment program at a time when health officials didn't want people out looking for work. The flat $600 payment was much easier for state agencies -- which were already struggling as a flood of claims overwhelmed their antiquated technology -- to implement.

Congress approved the boost for only four months, thinking that the economy would bounce back quickly once the coronavirus was vanquished and businesses reopened. For a while, that seemed to be the case -- with employers hiring more than 7 million workers in May and June after shedding an unprecedented 20.5 million jobs in April.

Senate Republicans, who are expected to release their proposal this week, are generally loath to extend the full benefit. They feel it creates a disincentive for people to return to work, a concern echoed by some business owners. Instead, GOP lawmakers are considering scaling back the enhancement by several hundred dollars and creating a bonus for those who go back to work.

Democrats, on the other hand, want to continue the bigger benefit into 2021. The House included that provision in the $3 trillion coronavirus relief bill it passed in May.

'The right thing to do for families and the economy is extend supercharged unemployment benefits,' said Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden, a Democrat. 'They have unquestionably kept the economy afloat.'

Blunting the impact

The augmented benefit has blunted the impact of the coronavirus-induced economic upheaval, which prompted the sharpest and swiftest loss of jobs on record in April. Still, 4.3 million homeowners missed their mortgage payments in May, the highest level since 2011, according to Black Knight, a mortgage data company.

And, the vast majority of food banks were still seeing a big jump in demand in early July, compared to a year ago, with 50% more people being served, on average, according to Feeding America, a network of food banks. Just under 30% were new clients.

The $600 payment provides more than $15 billion a week to 25 million Americans, according to an analysis by Andrew Stettner, senior fellow at The Century Foundation. Many are using it to cover their rent or mortgage, buy food and spend on other basic needs.

Shanga McNair of Jacksonville, Florida, is one of them. The veteran bartender lost her job at a brewhouse when the state shut down earlier this spring and then returned to work in early June at a jazz bar for about two shifts a week -- down from her typical six. However, state officials closed the bars again in late June after coronavirus cases spiked, sending her back to unemployment. Her side jobs bartending at private parties and banquets have also dried up.

The $600 federal boost, on top of her $275 weekly state benefit, is less than she made while working. It barely pays her rent but has allowed her to keep up with her bills. The 40-year-old, who also visits a local food pantry occasionally to supplement her grocery shopping, figures that if Congress doesn't extend the enhancement, she has three months to find a job before she's evicted.

So far, she's had no luck. McNair has sent scores of applications to restaurants, warehouses, customer service firms and offices, but they have yielded nothing. She even filled out an application while grabbing a bite at Popeye's after seeing the manager working multiple jobs but was told there was a hiring freeze.

'I hate depending on the government, but everything is out of my control,' said McNair, who is putting two daughters through college and has never collected unemployment before. She has written to her elected representatives in both parties. 'You can't just pull the rug because it's not over.'

Eliminating the federal benefit will reduce workers' weekly unemployment payments by 50% to 85%, depending on their state, Stettner said.

As Congress debates what to do, more people are at risk of losing their jobs in fresh rounds of layoffs. United and American airlines have warned this month that tens of thousands of employees could be cut or furloughed this fall. JCPenney announced last week that it would cut 1,000 jobs from its executive and regional offices. Other retailers, including Brooks Brothers and Neiman Marcus, have filed for bankruptcy.

Also, the spike in coronavirus cases has prompted at least two dozen states to halt or reverse their reopening plans, which will also cost people their jobs. For instance, California last week ordered the shuttering of bars, movie theaters and indoor dining at restaurants statewide, as well as the closing of gyms, houses of worship, indoor malls, hair salons and some offices in many counties.

The impact is already showing up in the data. The states with the largest surge in coronavirus cases earlier this month also had the biggest increase in initial unemployment claims, according to William Rodgers III, chief economist at the Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers University.

Some economists fear that the nascent jobs recovery will be derailed, sending even more people onto the unemployment rolls.

'Conditions in the labor market remain weak and the risk of mounting permanent job losses is high, especially if activity continues to be disrupted by repeated virus-related shutdowns,' said Rubeela Farooqi, chief US economist at High Frequency Economics.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 764448

Reported Deaths: 13965
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion1049701803
Lake567981029
Allen42685698
St. Joseph37253568
Hamilton37131426
Elkhart29699470
Tippecanoe23347230
Vanderburgh23106404
Porter19538327
Johnson18755391
Hendricks18012321
Madison13463345
Clark13450198
Vigo12789255
LaPorte12533224
Monroe12494178
Delaware11100198
Howard10612237
Kosciusko9736123
Hancock8707149
Bartholomew8235157
Warrick8031157
Floyd7975181
Grant7337181
Wayne7222201
Boone7145105
Morgan6886142
Marshall6323116
Dubois6267118
Cass6083111
Dearborn598578
Noble595790
Henry5939111
Jackson514677
Shelby509097
Lawrence4901127
Gibson460696
Montgomery454492
Clinton453555
DeKalb451585
Harrison450576
Whitley414745
Huntington411781
Steuben409560
Miami404073
Jasper399455
Knox387091
Putnam383762
Wabash367383
Adams351656
Ripley350471
Jefferson340486
White338954
Daviess3084100
Wells302281
Greene292285
Decatur291493
Fayette285864
Posey280435
Scott278058
LaGrange276972
Clay273048
Washington252437
Randolph247083
Jennings238149
Spencer237531
Fountain233750
Starke229859
Owen221059
Sullivan219043
Fulton207645
Jay202832
Carroll196522
Orange190556
Perry189139
Vermillion179644
Rush177027
Franklin171635
Tipton171547
Parke153616
Pike141234
Blackford137832
Pulaski122948
Newton122436
Benton109215
Brown105743
Crawford105116
Martin92515
Warren87615
Switzerland8308
Union73510
Ohio58211
Unassigned0428

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 1122104

Reported Deaths: 20467
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin1302141493
Cuyahoga1171052259
Hamilton823021259
Montgomery534221059
Summit488431014
Lucas43716832
Butler39925614
Stark33777937
Lorain25975509
Warren24887312
Mahoning22677612
Lake21448396
Clermont20360260
Delaware19105138
Licking16838227
Trumbull16770491
Fairfield16750207
Medina15818276
Greene15497254
Clark14336308
Portage13410218
Wood13332201
Allen12037245
Richland11722213
Miami10993228
Wayne9249227
Columbiana9195236
Muskingum9118137
Pickaway8735123
Tuscarawas8710254
Marion8697140
Erie8116166
Ashtabula7270179
Hancock7043134
Ross7011165
Geauga6946153
Scioto6665108
Belmont6207179
Lawrence5912104
Union590449
Jefferson5722162
Huron5624122
Sandusky5473130
Darke5436130
Seneca5376128
Washington5360111
Athens526360
Auglaize506987
Mercer490585
Shelby480997
Knox4609112
Madison447266
Ashland442698
Defiance438499
Fulton435675
Putnam4351104
Crawford4108111
Brown409462
Preble3944107
Logan391679
Clinton388666
Ottawa375381
Highland364968
Williams356178
Champaign348060
Guernsey329754
Jackson321154
Perry298350
Morrow294543
Fayette288150
Hardin279065
Henry276967
Coshocton272561
Holmes2725102
Van Wert251765
Adams249158
Gallia248950
Pike244537
Wyandot235257
Hocking222263
Carroll200649
Paulding179342
Meigs151040
Noble137739
Monroe137445
Harrison115138
Morgan111624
Vinton87217
Unassigned03
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