Nearly 18 months after Congress came to the rescue of jobless Americans, its historic expansion of the nation’s unemployment benefits system expired nationwide this weekend. Lawmakers, who extended the three pandemic programs in December and March, are not expected to renew them again.
A key component of the relief effort was a federal weekly supplement for out-of-work Americans. Initially, the jobless received a $600-a-week boost from April through July of 2020. Congress then revived the enhancement in late December but reduced it to $300 a week.
Lawmakers also created two other measures to aid the jobless when the coronavirus struck. The Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program provided payments for freelancers, the self-employed, independent contractors and certain people affected by the outbreak, while the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation program extended payments for those who’ve exhausted their regular state benefits.
More than 8 million people are now left with no unemployment compensation at all, while another 2.7 million lost the $300 as well state payments in some cases.
They join the roughly 2.7 million Americans who were cut off from some or all of their benefits in June or July after two dozen states opted to terminate at least one of the programs early. The governors — all but one of them Republicans — wanted to push their residents to look for jobs.
“We’ve protected people up until now from the real damage of long-term unemployment,” Stettner said. “Now we have to see whether this job market is really strong enough to keep people out of long-term harm at a time when people don’t have some of the other protections — like the housing protections — they had during the pandemic.”
In New York, letters have gone out to all those collecting unemployment who have used up all their benefits, that they will no longer receive any payment, but the state has some resources to help with their job search.
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