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COVID & Unemployment

$600 weekly benefit did not reduce employment, study finds

Andy Uhler Jul 31, 2020
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Some Senate Republicans have argued that the $600 benefit is too much, discouraging people from returning to work. Above, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell walks to the Senate floor on Thursday. Drew Angerer/Getty Images
COVID & Unemployment

$600 weekly benefit did not reduce employment, study finds

Andy Uhler Jul 31, 2020
Heard on:
Some Senate Republicans have argued that the $600 benefit is too much, discouraging people from returning to work. Above, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell walks to the Senate floor on Thursday. Drew Angerer/Getty Images
HTML EMBED:
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A study by Yale economists finds that expanded jobless benefits that Congress put in place back in March in response to COVID-19 did not reduce employment. This comes as Congress is debating the right level of relief for unemployed Americans as the $600 weekly supplement comes to an end.

Six months ago, Duke Ducheneaux had plenty of work as a live music audio engineer. He lives in Denver but spent a lot of time touring the country with bands, until all that stopped in March.

“I hate sitting here and doing nothing,” he said. “All I want to do is work.”

He’s on unemployment and said this is the last week he expects to get that $600 that’s part of the CARES Act. He said all told, that’s about half what he would normally be making.  

Some Senate Republicans and the White House have argued that the $600 benefit is too much and that it discourages people from coming back to work. Dana Scott, the lead author on the Yale study, said the research tells a different story.

“There are a lot of reasons that people are not going back to work that are more important in determining overall employment levels than these disincentive effects,” Scott said.

Those reasons include child care and the risk of getting COVID-19. She said another issue is the labor market: If there aren’t enough jobs to be had, people can’t go back to work.

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

What’s the outlook for vaccine supply?

Chief executives of America’s COVID-19 vaccine makers promised in congressional testimony to deliver the doses promised to the U.S. government by summer. The projections of confidence come after months of supply chain challenges and companies falling short of year-end projections for 2020. What changed? In part, drugmakers that normally compete are now actually helping one another. This has helped solve several supply chain issues, but not all of them.

How has the pandemic changed scientific research?

Over the past year, while some scientists turned their attention to COVID-19 and creating vaccines to fight it, most others had to pause their research — and re-imagine how to do it. Social distancing, limited lab capacity — “It’s less fun, I have to say. Like, for me the big part of the science is discussing the science with other people, getting excited about projects,” said Isabella Rauch, an immunologist at Oregon Health & Science University in Portland. Funding is also a big question for many.

What happened to all of the hazard pay essential workers were getting at the beginning of the pandemic?

Almost a year ago, when the pandemic began, essential workers were hailed as heroes. Back then, many companies gave hazard pay, an extra $2 or so per hour, for coming in to work. That quietly went away for most of them last summer. Without federal action, it’s mostly been up to local governments to create programs and mandates. They’ve helped compensate front-line workers, but they haven’t been perfect. “The solutions are small. They’re piecemeal,” said Molly Kinder at the Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Program. “You’re seeing these innovative pop-ups because we have failed overall to do something systematically.”

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