What’s next for workers as pandemic unemployment benefits close to expire – Forbes Advisor


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Despite the ongoing challenges of managing Covid-19 and its variants, one thing is certain: Federal unemployment benefits of $ 300 per week are coming to an end.

Twenty-six states have ended federal pandemic unemployment benefits that provide an additional $ 300 weekly payment, citing a surplus of available jobs. But nearly 9 million workers were still unemployed as of June 2021. And with the virus refusing to loosen its grip on the economy, will workers be able to find and keep jobs in the fall?

Here’s what’s at stake for unemployed Americans with one month to go until unemployment benefits end on September 6.

No chance to extend federal unemployment benefits

The expiration of the federal government’s weekly $ 300 boost comes at a chaotic time for many working Americans. As the nation grapples with cases of the contagious delta variant and the White House urges Americans to get vaccinated against Covid-19 (only around 60% of the population over 12 is fully vaccinated), several States have reinstated indoor mask warrants to try to minimize the spread of the virus.

While no large-scale economic shutdowns like those seen at the start of the pandemic have been announced, people seeking employment or who have just returned to the workforce may feel less financially stable.

Since many have exhausted their state benefits, a wave of people will lose their unemployment benefits once the federal premium expires. The self-employed and temporary workers – who will lose the Pandemic Unemployment Insurance (PUA) benefits created in 2020 – have no state programs to fall back on.

In a letter last week, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and Labor Secretary Marty Walsh reiterated President Biden’s previous message that it was appropriate to let benefits end in early September.

But ending the boost doesn’t mean the economy is ready to go smoothly after it.

“Even as the economy continues to recover and job growth continues, there are some states where it may make sense for the unemployed to continue to receive additional assistance for a longer period. Give residents of those states more time to find employment in areas where unemployment remains high, ”wrote Yellen and Walsh.

Cutting benefits did not correct perceived ‘labor shortages’

States that cut benefits early have supported their decisions with labor shortage anecdotes to push people back to work.

But the first cutoff data does not support these claims. An analysis by the UKG workforce management company reported that states that ended benefits in June saw half of ‘shift growth’ – a measure of the number of shifts completed – in July compared to states where unemployment continued to rise.

Another report by payroll management company Gusto found that job growth was similar for states that kept the benefits rather than cut them.

Slower-than-expected job growth, especially in states that ended benefits prematurely, indicates a mismatch between what jobs are available and what workers are looking for. Data from the Census Bureau in early August showed that only 9% of the unemployed were in this situation because they did not want to work.

The unemployment rate, which is known to underestimate the number of unemployed people, is still at 5.4% in July.

What’s the next step for workers?

As the unemployment rate has fallen throughout the summer, it is evident that the post-pandemic recovery will be slow and steady, and not the near-immediate rebound that economists initially hoped to see.

And this moderate recovery could be amplified by the end of unemployment benefits in September. Unemployment benefits allow recipients to contribute to the economy by spending on housing, groceries and childcare. And while the expansion of the child tax credit increases the incomes of some households, it may not close a widespread spending gap that may start to snowball once unemployment benefits run out.

September’s benefit cut will likely have the worst outcome for black and brown workers who face higher long-term unemployment rates.

“Historic inequalities in the labor market will be exposed even more,” said Lindsay Owens, executive director of the progressive Groundwork Collaborative.

In the letter to congressional leaders last week, Yellen and Walsh noted that states could use their US bailout allocations – $ 350 billion has been set aside for states and municipalities – to help the unemployed. This can be done by extending benefits for people who have used up their qualifying weeks and continuing payments to workers who may not be eligible for regular public programs (i.e., concert workers receiving PUA).

The Department of Labor is also providing $ 47 million in grants (on top of the $ 400 million announced earlier in 2021) for state labor agency programs that help residents find work.

Biden also continues to push Congress for UI reform as part of the US Family Plan. The fate of this package depends on the balance of a tightly divided Congress. Presented as a reconciliation bill (which means Democrats could pass it without any support from Republicans), it is based on the passage of the bipartisan infrastructure package approved in the Senate in early August.

Who to contact for help after benefits have expired

If you still don’t have a job and are worried about making ends meet in September, be sure to apply for the following benefits:

  • Continue to file a weekly unemployment benefit claim. Track all communication with your state’s unemployment system. If your claim for benefits or weekly claims has been delayed due to state arrears or other administrative hurdles, don’t give up. Although weekly federal allowances may end in your state, you may still be entitled to a refund of wages. Or, you may be eligible for any extension of benefits that your state promulgates.
  • Apply for food aid. The maximum SNAP benefit, or food stamps, was increased during the pandemic; From October, it will benefit from a permanent increase. In some states, people who have filed for unemployment are automatically considered eligible for SNAP benefits. Grocery shopping on food stamps can help free up money elsewhere in your finances for other basic needs.
  • Seek rental assistance funds. The federal deportation ban is in effect until October 3. If you are behind on your rent or are worried about being late, financing may be available to pay your rent or your utilities. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau maintains a list of rental assistance programs for each state and tribe.
  • Get the monthly child tax credit payment. If you have children in your household, you may be eligible for the Temporarily Expanded Child Tax Credit which allows you to receive a monthly payment. Most people will receive payments automatically, but you may need to use the Child Tax Credit Update Portal to update your information if your financial or family situation has recently changed. This is a prepayment of the child tax credit, which means it is money you won’t have to repay (as long as your income and other eligibility details are reported. correctly).

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