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Rumors or Reality: Pandemic Unemployment Benefits Returning

By Reagan Williams

(Source: Pexels, Ketut Subiyanto)

On September 6, 2021, a harsh reality hit many Americans as the pandemic-related expansion of unemployment insurance came to a halt. There are 7.5 million people who lost their benefits entirely. However, you might live in one of the 26 states that decided to end these benefits early. There have been various social and geographic sectors were hit more than others. Since benefits vary from state to state the culmination of the pandemic unemployment benefits can have a significant impact.

What do the faces the groups of individuals who will suffer the most from this, look like? According to the U.S. Department of Labor of Bureau of Statistics, the answer is, workers of color who worked in frontline industries. Currently, the unemployment rate for Black workers is at 9.2% from the August 2021 report. Usually, if this were a national rate impacting an entire population then it would likely be declared a national emergency. Our nation is still recuperating from the remnants of the Great Recession that provided teachable moments for policymakers today regarding the effects of federal support being cut too early. In 2013, when federal aid was cut off, the Black unemployment rate was over 10 percent, elevating the national rate.

(Source: Pexels, Ono Kosuki)

Now in 2021, Democratic lawmakers are calling to reform the unemployment system in the upcoming $3.5 trillion House spending plan with a letter that was drafted on September 16th. They cite how workers of color will be disproportionately impacted that live in states with the lowest unemployment insurance coverage rates and working jobs with the least access to unemployment benefits. Furthermore, these lawmakers raise concerns in regard to self-employed individuals seeking benefits and barriers for low-wage and part-time workers to receive benefits. Is it possible that given the uptick in the delta- variant cases and the data, that the White House could renew those extra benefits?

(Source: Pexels, Karolina Grabowska)

There were over 3.3 million people that lost all of their Pandemic Emergency Unemployment (PEUC) Compensation and 4.2 million people that have lost Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA)- this includes freelancers, gig workers and independent contractors. Despite the numbers, White House officials claimed it would not be extended. However, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on September 15, 2021, announced she was introducing a bill to retroactively extend enhanced jobless benefits until February 2022. Time will reveal if there will be any further assistance for those Americans affected. States will still have the option to use the $350 billion of pandemic funds that Congress allocated in the American Rescue Plan.

Currently, there is no state extending Unemployment Insurance programs due to the high costs associated with running these programs. Additionally, it is difficult for states to justify politically how to do this when the unemployment rate is dropping and the challenge businesses are experiencing to fill positions. If you are still unemployed, here are a few things to check out on NextAdvisor because the reality is the federal government is not extending unemployment insurance funding. Finally, a great place to start if you are looking for a job is looking into resources for yourself, contacting your local unemployment office, researching various relief programs and finding a survival job in the meantime.

Learn Even More

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