COVID & Unemployment

Expanded COVID-19 unemployment money is helping millions of workers pay their bills

Mitchell Hartman Jul 9, 2020
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Juanmonino via Getty Images
COVID & Unemployment

Expanded COVID-19 unemployment money is helping millions of workers pay their bills

Mitchell Hartman Jul 9, 2020
Heard on:
Juanmonino via Getty Images
HTML EMBED:
COPY

More than 30 million out-of-work Americans are receiving unemployment benefits right now. For the week ending July 4, an additional 1.3 million workers sought unemployment aid as layoffs remain historically high amid spikes in COVID-19 cases, according to the latest jobless claims report.

Under the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, recipients of state jobless benefits get an extra $600 added every week. That makes the average unemployment check about equal to the median pay for working Americans nationwide.

Unless Congress extends the funding, those $600 federal pandemic unemployment payments will run out at the end of July.

Advocates for maintaining the payments say they’re a crucial financial lifeline for out-of-work Americans at a time when new jobs are scarce, and going to work could be dangerous due to COVID-19.

Opponents argue the payments are so high they discourage people from looking for work.

Dave Harris of Hoboken, New Jersey, has been on unemployment since March. “I didn’t really see much of a pay cut at all, with that expanded unemployment,” he said.

Harris is a car mechanic and still hasn’t been called back to his job.

“I was actually able to use that extra $600 a week to pay down some of my credit cards,” he said.

If the federal payments end, he says he’ll look for work or go back to school.

Miami bartender James Gamboa has been furloughed since March and says the federal money has allowed him to pay his bills. If it runs out?

“You know, got to get back in the swing of things,” Gamboa said. “I mean, you hope we can get a handle on the pandemic as well.”

He was about to start a new restaurant job — but Florida’s recent COVID-19 surge shut the place down.

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

Millions of Americans are unemployed, but businesses say they are having trouble hiring. Why?

This economic crisis is unusual compared to traditional recessions, according to Daniel Zhao, senior economist with Glassdoor. “Many workers are still sitting out of the labor force because of health concerns or child care needs, and that makes it tough to find workers regardless of what you’re doing with wages or benefits,” Zhao said. “An extra dollar an hour isn’t going to make a cashier with preexisting conditions feel that it’s safe to return to work.” This can be seen in the restaurant industry: Some workers have quit or are reluctant to apply because of COVID-19 concerns, low pay, meager benefits and the stress that comes with a fast-paced, demanding job. Restaurants have been willing to offer signing bonuses and temporary wage increases. One McDonald’s is even paying people $50 just to interview.

Could waiving patents increase the global supply of COVID-19 vaccines?

India and South Africa have introduced a proposal to temporarily suspend patents on COVID-19 vaccines. Backers of the plan say it would increase the supply of vaccines around the world by allowing more countries to produce them. Skeptics say it’s not that simple. There’s now enough supply in the U.S that any adult who wants a shot should be able to get one soon. That reality is years away for most other countries. More than 100 countries have backed the proposal to temporarily waive COVID-19 vaccine patents. The U.S isn’t one of them, but the White House has said it’s considering the idea.

Can businesses deny you entry if you don’t have a vaccine passport?

As more Americans get vaccinated against COVID-19 and the economy continues reopening, some businesses are requiring proof of vaccination to enter their premises. The concept of a vaccine passport has raised ethical questions about data privacy and potential discrimination against the unvaccinated. However, legal experts say businesses have the right to deny entrance to those who can’t show proof.

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