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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: 703345

Reported Deaths: 13194
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion959691716
Lake51222940
Allen38926670
Hamilton34288404
St. Joseph33770539
Elkhart27117431
Vanderburgh22034393
Tippecanoe21671212
Johnson17451374
Porter17206297
Hendricks16735310
Clark12657190
Madison12302337
Vigo12155244
Monroe11385166
LaPorte10800204
Delaware10312184
Howard9617211
Kosciusko9068113
Hancock7939139
Bartholomew7854153
Warrick7675155
Floyd7542176
Wayne6880198
Grant6773170
Boone6524100
Morgan6370138
Dubois6071117
Marshall5753108
Dearborn568075
Cass5671102
Henry5563100
Noble537983
Jackson492369
Shelby477795
Lawrence4332118
Gibson427389
Harrison426570
Montgomery416486
Clinton416053
DeKalb406684
Huntington376980
Whitley375539
Miami371465
Knox365389
Steuben362657
Putnam351960
Wabash346677
Jasper346146
Adams337652
Ripley333368
Jefferson311579
White307354
Daviess288899
Wells285180
Decatur278592
Fayette277062
Greene270385
Posey268333
Scott260553
Clay252244
LaGrange251470
Randolph234480
Washington230431
Spencer227431
Jennings224647
Fountain207745
Sullivan207342
Starke201952
Owen191856
Fulton190839
Carroll185620
Jay185529
Perry179536
Orange176553
Rush170324
Vermillion165743
Franklin165435
Tipton160943
Parke143816
Blackford132831
Pike130134
Pulaski113145
Newton102934
Brown99640
Crawford97014
Benton96213
Martin82415
Warren78915
Switzerland7698
Union69610
Ohio55511
Unassigned0405

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 1048109

Reported Deaths: 18917
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin1217031352
Cuyahoga1063982060
Hamilton779451165
Montgomery49883989
Summit45144907
Lucas39826760
Butler37638568
Stark31348894
Lorain24090472
Warren23835291
Mahoning20822583
Lake19915362
Clermont19397228
Delaware17972130
Licking16089206
Fairfield15646196
Trumbull15521459
Medina14815259
Greene14613236
Clark13576288
Wood12709184
Portage12313194
Allen11303229
Richland11017198
Miami10511212
Muskingum8688127
Wayne8543209
Columbiana8527226
Pickaway8421120
Marion8360135
Tuscarawas8359239
Erie7540153
Ross6692145
Hancock6683123
Geauga6527146
Ashtabula6458164
Scioto6280100
Belmont5591158
Union556247
Lawrence5458102
Jefferson5283147
Huron5270113
Darke5264121
Sandusky5164119
Seneca5093118
Washington5074107
Athens499454
Auglaize474884
Mercer470384
Shelby455089
Knox4371108
Madison421058
Putnam420298
Ashland412086
Fulton407966
Defiance399996
Crawford3858100
Brown385555
Logan372276
Preble369598
Clinton359659
Ottawa355478
Highland346059
Williams323274
Champaign318556
Jackson306951
Guernsey305848
Perry289349
Fayette276948
Morrow274439
Hardin263563
Henry263166
Coshocton258257
Holmes252699
Van Wert238662
Gallia233246
Pike232431
Adams227552
Wyandot226353
Hocking208958
Carroll188947
Paulding168538
Meigs141438
Noble132737
Monroe128841
Morgan106423
Harrison105336
Vinton81414
Unassigned02
Fort Wayne
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Feels Like: 54°
Angola
Partly Cloudy
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Huntington
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Hi: 57° Lo: 34°
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Fort Wayne
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Feels Like: 54°
Lima
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Temperatures start to climb back up on Friday as we'll see mostly sunny skies return to northeast Indiana and northwest Ohio.
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