In These Times
With time running out and Republicans balking at more Covid relief, U.S. workers are facing a future of financial misery.
As millions of U.S. workers face unemployment, food insecurity and eviction amid the coronavirus pandemic, the limited aid provided by the federal government’s flawed CARES Act from March has long since dried up.
Last week, following more than six months of stalled negotiations with congressional Democrats over a new economic relief package, President Trump abruptly announced he was halting talks until after the November election.
While the president quickly backtracked and is now reportedly continuing to negotiate, the federal government’s ongoing failure to pass a new relief package spells catastrophe for a U.S. working class already pushed to the brink by an economic crisis seemingly on par with the Great Depression.
Here’s a breakdown of what the continued lack of federal help means for workers:
Significantly reduced unemployment checks
Perhaps the most beneficial part of the CARES Act was the extra $600 a week it provided to workers on unemployment — a temporary lifeline that the GOP-led Senate allowed to expire on July 31.
Weekly unemployment benefits vary widely by state, ranging from $44 in Oklahoma to $497 in Washington. The $600 weekly supplement was an across-the-board benefit that ensured unemployed workers in any state maintained a decent income despite losing their jobs due to the pandemic.
The Economic Policy Institute found that the consumer spending generated by that extra $600 per week supported over 5 million jobs, and that continuing the supplement through the middle of next year would have raised U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) by a quarterly average of 3.7 percent.
After this benefit expired, rather than agree to Democrats’ demands to extend it, President Trump signed an executive order slashing it by 50 percent — allowing states to use federal funds to provide only a $300 weekly unemployment supplement. At least seven states have already exhausted these funds.
Meanwhile, by losing the weekly $600 boost, unemployed workers saw their incomes drop by two-thirds, making it more difficult to pay the bills and afford groceries. There are currently 25.5 million workers receiving unemployment benefits. With at least 14 million more jobless workers than job openings, millions will be forced to rely on unemployment insurance for the foreseeable future — but now with a greatly reduced check […]