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