COVID-19

Pandemic unemployment benefits have kept people spending

Jasmine Garsd Jul 23, 2020
Heard on: Marketplace Morning Report
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A person fills out an unemployment benefits application. The addition of $600 a week has enabled many Americans to keep spending and support businesses. Olivier Douliery/AFP via Getty Images
COVID-19

Pandemic unemployment benefits have kept people spending

Jasmine Garsd Jul 23, 2020
A person fills out an unemployment benefits application. The addition of $600 a week has enabled many Americans to keep spending and support businesses. Olivier Douliery/AFP via Getty Images
HTML EMBED:
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Chester Englander, in Ohio, is a musician for various symphonies. He has two kids and has been almost entirely out of work since March. So has his wife, also a musician.

They’ve been getting $1,200 a week in pandemic unemployment benefits.

“It’s not an exaggeration to say it kept us afloat. I mean we paid for food, we can pay our mortgage and property taxes,” he said.

Economists say pandemic unemployment has boosted the whole economy.

“If we had done nothing, we would’ve thrown tens of millions of people out of work and given them no income. So they would’ve stopped spending anywhere near as much money on groceries. They would’ve quickly gone into defaults or arrears on mortgages,” said Josh Bivens of the Economic Policy Institute.

Bivens said one sign that people have been spending their $600 a week “was the last two months of really fast job growth we saw. We had some reopening of the economy, but then we also had people who had income.”

People like Englander, who said he has saved enough to pay two months of his mortgage — and for one month of food.

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

What’s going on with extra COVID-19 unemployment benefits?

It’s been weeks since President Donald Trump signed an executive memorandum that was supposed to get the federal government back into the business of topping up unemployment benefits, to $400 a week. Few states, however, are currently paying even part of the benefit that the president promised. And, it looks like, in most states, the maximum additional benefit unemployment recipients will be able to get is $300.

What’s the latest on evictions?

For millions of Americans, things are looking grim. Unemployment is high, and pandemic eviction moratoriums have expired in states across the country. And as many people already know, eviction is something that can haunt a person’s life for years. For instance, getting evicted can make it hard to rent again. And that can lead to spiraling poverty.

Which retailers are requiring that people wear masks when shopping? And how are they enforcing those rules?

Walmart, Target, Lowe’s, CVS, Home Depot, Costco — they all have policies that say shoppers are required to wear a mask. When an employee confronts a customer who refuses, the interaction can spin out of control, so many of these retailers are telling their workers to not enforce these mandates. But, just having them will actually get more people to wear masks.

You can find answers to more questions on unemployment benefits and COVID-19 here.

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