COVID & Unemployment

States where it’s harder to get unemployment benefits may see higher rates of poverty

Mitchell Hartman Jan 28, 2021
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Olivier Douliery/AFP via Getty Images
COVID & Unemployment

States where it’s harder to get unemployment benefits may see higher rates of poverty

Mitchell Hartman Jan 28, 2021
Heard on:
Olivier Douliery/AFP via Getty Images
HTML EMBED:
COPY

After gradually edging down in the fall, new unemployment claims have recently bounced higher again in early winter, principally driven by coronavirus-related lockdowns and layoffs. The latest report from the Department of Labor shows a historically high 847,000 people applied for jobless benefits last week.

And, new data shows states that make it harder to get unemployment benefits tend to have higher poverty rates.

Heading into the pandemic, 28% of jobless workers nationwide were able to get on unemployment, but eligibility has varied widely.

On the low end, in Florida, South Dakota and Arizona, only about 10% qualified.

Michele Evermore at the National Employment Law Project said states have kept workers off the rolls by “adding hurdles to get benefits, increasing the number of work searches that people have to make, monetary eligibility requirements — so people with tipped income, people working sporadically, generally get left off.”

And in the least generous states, more families have fallen below the poverty line in the pandemic, said Notre Dame economist Jim Sullivan. His recent study found “the rise in poverty is much more pronounced for the states for which unemployment insurance take-up is low. We saw a rise in the last six months of 3.5 percentage points.”

Poverty is up 1.5% in states with the highest share of jobless workers on the unemployment rolls.

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