COVID & Unemployment

How the loss of $600 a week will impact jobless people we’ve been following

Mitchell Hartman Jul 22, 2020
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An applicant fills out an unemployment benefits form in Virginia. Temporary relief payments are scheduled to end soon. Olivier Douliery/AFP via Getty Images
COVID & Unemployment

How the loss of $600 a week will impact jobless people we’ve been following

Mitchell Hartman Jul 22, 2020
Heard on:
An applicant fills out an unemployment benefits form in Virginia. Temporary relief payments are scheduled to end soon. Olivier Douliery/AFP via Getty Images
HTML EMBED:
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Correction (July 23, 2020): Previous versions of this web and audio story mischaracterized Don Darue’s employment status at 101.5 FM Truckee Tahoe Radio and included a misstatement about company employment decisions. They have been corrected.

If federal pandemic money goes away, the average unemployment check nationwide will drop more than 60%, to about $340 a week.

Don Darue and his family have been getting ready.

“We’ve been saving money in anticipation of the bottom falling out of all of this,” he said. Still, they’re facing a financial cliff.

“We were just talking about that this morning over breakfast — what are we going to do?” he said.

In pre-COVID times, Darue could be found most weekdays hosting morning drive-time radio in Truckee, California, a resort area near Lake Tahoe. When the state issued its stay-at-home order in March, the owner of his radio station, 101.5 FM Truckee Tahoe Radio, kept going into the office while all the other employees worked from home.

“We have worked tirelessly to keep our people employed and paid during this pandemic,” Merri Broglio, marketing manager for the station, told Marketplace.

But Darue had already been on leave since February, and after lockdown started, he stayed home to take care of his two elementary school-age kids, who were home from school. His wife still works supervising food services at a local hospital.

He’s been getting around $400 a week in state unemployment benefits, plus $600 a week federal — it’s actually a bit more than he was making at the radio station.

“Which helped things stay pretty status quo in our house,” he said. 

However, Darue still doesn’t know if school’s reopening in the fall. If it doesn’t, he’ll be at home watching the kids.

“If I can’t go back to work, and the COVID relief ends, we are going to have to move. It seems counterintuitive, but during the pandemic, rents have gone up,” he said.

Jody Solell knows what his family’s going to do if the $600-a-week pandemic payment goes away: more of the same.

“We’re pretty frugal,” he said. 

Back in March, Solell was furloughed from his job at a solar-energy installer in suburban Maryland.

“I mean, I cut back as soon as I got furloughed. I haven’t been in a store other than a grocery store since March,” he said. “Our credit card bill is like half of what it normally is.”

The loss of federal unemployment payments might force him to start charging the cards up again. Starting next week, Solell’s unemployment check will be reduced by two-thirds, to just $300 a week.

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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