Nearly 1 Million Workers Have Run Out of Unemployment Benefits

Paulina Bastidas-Yale, an unemployed downtown office cleaner, helps distribute food at the Our Savior Lutheran Church on Paris St. in East Boston on Sept. 22, 2020. Bastidas was left unemployed after office workers left Boston to work from home during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo by David L. Ryan/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

By Elle Meyers

October 22, 2020

New analysis finds that hundreds of thousands of people exhausted their unemployment benefits by the end of August this year.

Nearly 1 million people have run out of unemployment benefits since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic in March, according to a new analysis released Wednesday. 

The Century Foundation, a progrssive think tank based in New York, found that about 933,731 people received their maximum unemployment insurance payment by the end of August this year. The group analyzed Labor Department and Treasury Department data. 

More than 20 million Americans lost their jobs last spring when the pandemic forced businesses to close in order to slow the spread of COVID-19. The sharp economic decline was the steepest and quickest economic collapse since the Great Depression.

Although the country saw some economic improvement over the summer as businesses were able to reopen, roughly 25 million people are still relying on some form of jobless benefits. 

At the state level, unemployment benefits are notoriously meager and can be difficult to impossible to live off of. Without additional support from the federal government many individuals and families have been pushed towards poverty. 

The initial coronavirus relief packages helped the country avoid further economic collapse by allocating $600 a week directly to unemployed Americans, many of whom used the money right away for essentials. 

“Anybody who has half a brain understands that the way the economy is actually driven is by the people who are making purchases from businesses in that economy,” Kazz Walding said in a previous interview with COURIER. “It’s not driven by rich CEOs lining their pockets—it’s driven by us, the working people.”

Walding was one of millions of Americans who lost their jobs in the wake of the pandemic and is struggling to make ends meet. 

An additional point of frustration stems from lawmakers in Congress who, for months, have not been able to pass another round of coronavirus relief aid for citizens. Over the spring and summer lawmakers have engaged in fruitless negotiations, especially between Senate Republicans and the White House, and have let benefits lapse. In recent weeks there has been some movement to get relief aid passed before the election on November 3 but hopes have dimmed. 

Many experts agree that allocating funding to individuals has the added benefit of helping to strengthen the economy. However, the data has not had a major impact on Republican lawmakers who proposed a skeletal aid package and have refused to pass more robust proposals. 

“They’re killing the economy and they’re killing the people along with it,” Walding said. 

Now, even if leaders in Congress are able to agree on a coronavirus relief package lawmakers would have less than two weeks to pass it before Election Day. 


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