Federal unemployment supplements due to the COVID-19 pandemic ended September 5. The benefits gave citizens an additional $300 a week to keep them afloat financially.
According to the New York Times, approximately 7.5 million Americans have lost their benefits entirely, while millions more will have their unemployment checks cut short by $300.
Four different federal unemployment packages have now ended, including Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation, Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation, Mixed Earners Unemployment Compensation, and Pandemic Unemployment Assistance.
Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation was the program that gave the $300 benefit. Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation covered those who had already exhausted their state’s unemployment.
Mixed Earners Unemployment Compensation gave people who worked both as an independent contractor and a worker $100 a week, while Pandemic Unemployment Assistance expanded benefits to those who are self-employed.
When the COVID-19 pandemic began, the federal government created a $600 weekly supplement to unemployment as a part of the CARES Act. Those programs were cut last summer and were brought back by Congress in December in the Americans Rescue Plan stimulus package for half of the weekly amount.
A similar restoration of federal unemployment benefits may not be likely, as President Biden encouraged states with high unemployment rates to utilize existing federal funds to extend benefits in early August.
26 states had ended their additional unemployment aid before the federal expiration earlier this week, “with some governors stating that these unemployment benefits are a disincentive for Americans to return to work,” according to Forbes.
Georgia was one of those 26 states and the Georgia Department of Labor returned to its pre-pandemic operations on June 27.
In an August study on the early withdrawal of federal unemployment, ending pandemic unemployment increased employment by 4.4 percentage points in states that retained federal benefits until the expiration, while reducing unemployment recipiency by 35 percentage points.
From the beginning of the study through the first week of August, benefits for workers fell by $278 a week and spending decreased by $145 per week. The study suggests that most of the employment gains were due to the exhaustion of benefits as opposed to through incentives for finding a job from the loss of $300 a week supplement.
Sharita M. Humphrey is an award-winning finance expert who specializes in consumers learning how to better manage their money. In her opinion, federal benefits have come to an end too soon. She fears that without the supplemental income from the government, Americans will struggle to make ends meet.
“We’re coming towards the end of the third quarter and we’ll be entering the fourth quarter before we know it,” Humphrey said. “And a lot of times, those hiring things, unless you’re in something like retail, a lot of people may have a cap or freeze until the new year.”
Humphrey feels as though the subsidized benefits were simply placing a bandage on a pre-existing issue and without the safety net, citizens will fall into financial ruin.
“So definitely, for me, I feel like a lot of people were already in financial chaos before the pandemic,” Humphrey said. “The pandemic just allowed for all of us to be able to see, really, how many people, how many millions of people were in financial stress but now they’re in distress now because there’s no financial buffer for them to kind of figure things out.”
“[Federal unemployment] was just a transfer,” Humphrey continued. “They were living paycheck to paycheck, and they were living unemployment to unemployment. So now, they’re really in it. Not only a pandemic, they’re in panic.”
To the argument that the federal benefits made people not want to go back to work, Humphrey admitted that “there’s a little bit of truth to everything”.
“But let’s really identify what the real issue is,” Humphrey said. “A lot of people realized that, ‘Wait a minute. I’m getting more money by being at home than I was going to work, putting my kids [in danger] … They’re not as stressed out mentally and emotionally.”
Now that the federal unemployment assistance has come to an end, Humphrey suggests that those being impacted by the change should reach out to their local workforce commission to see what jobs are available. She also recommends budgeting because it’s something people have control over.
She also mentioned that temp agencies are actively seeking workers and that finding a short-term job while continuing to search for a permanent position can help keep people from going into debt.
Another idea would be reaching out to creditors to seek a payment plan readjustment.