Unemployment Aid Programs End for Millions of Jobless Workers

Unemployment Aid Programs End for Millions of Jobless Workers

Several unemployment aid programs designed to soften the blow of job loss during the Covid-19 crisis expired Monday, eliminating or sharply reducing benefits for millions of jobless workers.

The programs that have ended include:

* Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation, which provided $300 per week (originally $600) in addition to state-level jobless benefits.

* Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, which provided benefits to workers who normally do not qualify, including gig workers, independent contractors and the self-employed.

* Pandemic Extended Unemployment Compensation, which extended the duration of payments from 26 weeks to 79 weeks.

Together, those programs have been one of the largest responses to the Covid crisis, with Congress authorizing a bit more than $700 billion in unemployment aid, according to the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget’s Covid Money Tracker.

Worries about the effects: About 7.5 million people are losing all of the unemployment aid they were receiving, and nearly 3 million additional people are losing the federal enhancement of $300 per week to their state payments. By some estimates, more than 30 million people living in households that were receiving some kind of temporary unemployment benefits will be affected by a loss of income.

“The cessation of this jobless aid, first put in place by Congress nearly 18 months ago, could upend the lives of millions of Americans still struggling to find work at a time when the pandemic’s delta variant is wreaking fresh havoc across a number of states,” The Washington Post’s Yeganeh Torbati, Andrew Van Dam and Alyssa Fowers report. “It could also lead to a sharp pullback in spending, particularly in certain areas of the country, impacting a wide range of restaurants and other businesses that rely on consumer dollars.”

Extensions unlikely: Though there have been calls to extend one or more of the unemployment programs, especially in the wake of the latest surge in the delta variant of Covid-19, there appears to be no movement towards doing so. Democrats are focused on passing President Biden’s roughly $4 trillion spending plan in the coming weeks, while many Republicans have blamed the unemployment aid programs for the sometimes disappointing pace of the economic recovery.  

The White House has called on states to use some portion of the billions in pandemic relief funds they have received from the federal government to boost unemployment benefits, but none have done so.