COVID-19

Do unemployment benefits in the time of COVID-19 cover the cost of living?

Mitchell Hartman Apr 23, 2020
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The benefits vary from state to state, though right now, recipients also qualify for $600 a week in federal pandemic unemployment benefits. Olivier Douliery/AFP via Getty Images
COVID-19

Do unemployment benefits in the time of COVID-19 cover the cost of living?

Mitchell Hartman Apr 23, 2020
The benefits vary from state to state, though right now, recipients also qualify for $600 a week in federal pandemic unemployment benefits. Olivier Douliery/AFP via Getty Images
HTML EMBED:
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On Thursday morning, the Department of Labor shared that another 4.4 million people signed up for unemployment in the week ending April 18. American workers filed a shocking 26.5 million first-time claims in the last month, according to the seasonally adjusted numbers, driven by pandemic layoffs.

How far can these checks go for those out of a job?

More than 1 million Texans have applied for unemployment. Amber Bradshaw is among them.

“I stopped working, I think my last day of work was … I’m sorry I’ve really lost track of time,” Bradshaw said.

She and the team she manages at a furniture store were furloughed last Friday. She expects to get $521 per week on unemployment, plus $600 per week in federal pandemic benefits.

Enough to cover her bills? “For me it is, and for my staff it will be also,” Bradshaw said.

But benefits might fall short for her relatives in California, where the cost of living is higher. And benefits vary widely, says Michele Evermore at the National Employment Law Project.

“You see anything from $213 on average in Mississippi, to $555 in Massachusetts,” Evermore said.

The average nationwide is $370. Add that to the pandemic benefits and it totals $970, about the same as the average weekly pay of Americans nationwide.

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

How many people are flying? Has traveled picked up?

Flying is starting to recover to levels the airline industry hasn’t seen in months. The Transportation Security Administration announced on Oct. 19 that it’s screened more than 1 million passengers on a single day — its highest number since March 17. The TSA also screened more than 6 million passengers last week, its highest weekly volume since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. While travel is improving, the TSA announcement comes amid warnings that the U.S. is in the third wave of the coronavirus. There are now more than 8 million cases in the country, with more than 219,000 deaths.

How are Americans feeling about their finances?

Nearly half of all Americans would have trouble paying for an unexpected $250 bill and a third of Americans have less income than before the pandemic, according to the latest results of our Marketplace-Edison Poll. Also, 6 in 10 Americans think that race has at least some impact on an individual’s long-term financial situation, but Black respondents are much more likely to think that race has a big impact on a person’s long-term financial situation than white or Hispanic/Latinx respondents.

Find the rest of the poll results here, which cover how Americans have been faring financially about six months into the pandemic, race and equity within the workplace and some of the key issues Trump and Biden supporters are concerned about.

What’s going to happen to retailers, especially with the holiday shopping season approaching?

A report out recently from the accounting consultancy BDO USA said 29 big retailers filed for bankruptcy protection through August. And if bankruptcies continue at that pace, the number could rival the bankruptcies of 2010, after the Great Recession. For retailers, the last three months of this year will be even more critical than usual for their survival as they look for some hope around the holidays.

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