Dozens of states are about to slash unemployment benefits. The move is a painful gut punch for millions of Americans who will be unable to pay their bills.

People stand in line to receive food on the sidewalk with shopping carts, while wearing masks

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At least half of US states will soon put a halt to benefits that many unemployed or underemployed workers have relied upon to keep their heads above water financially through the pandemic. 

More than two dozen Republican governors have announced that their states would soon begin to opt out of federal pandemic programs that provide enhanced unemployment benefits. The latest is Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. of Maryland, who said he felt the expanded benefits are no longer needed since “vaccines and jobs are now in good supply.”  

Expanded unemployment benefits for residents in these Republican-led states are now slated to end within the next six weeks or so. Missouri, Iowa, Mississippi, and Alaska will be the first to implement the move, with expanded benefits expected to end on June 12. 

In addition to ending the enhanced unemployment payments of $300 in federal benefits, these actions also halt initiatives that provided benefits to freelancers, gig workers, and so-called “mixed earners” — people who had both W2 income and additional earnings from self-employment or gig work.  

It’s worth noting that many of the states taking this action are also among the states with the lowest minimum wage — in many cases, at or just above the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour. These lawmakers are cutting benefits many of their constituents desperately need, while at the same time not doing anything to ensure people can find jobs that pay a reasonable living wage. A full-time minimum-wage worker cannot afford a two-bedroom rental anywhere in the country, and a one-bedroom rental is also out of reach  almost everywhere.  

Part of a popular pandemic relief package 

Polls show that the majority of Americans support the American Rescue Plan and the economic initiatives it enabled, including, in addition to the continued enhanced unemployment benefits, the $1,400 stimulus payments and expanded tax credits. 

These actions put cash directly in the pockets of families who needed it, and the expanded unemployment benefits played a major part in supporting families in need. For Americans who lost their job or had their hours at work cut, those benefits are a financial lifeline — one that can help recipients pay for childcare while they look for a job. Thanks to that support, these families can keep the lights on, put food on the table, and pay other essential bills. Researchers at the University of Michigan studied US Census Bureau data and found that COVID-19 relief initiatives passed since December 2020 significantly reduced food insecurity and financial instability, while also decreasing mental health symptoms like anxiety and depression. 

Ironically, even though every Republican lawmaker voted against the latest relief package, many of them are now raving about the benefits it provided to their constituents. 

Higher wages would eliminate much of the problem – while also making financial sense 

Lawmakers and businesses who strongly support an immediate end to these benefits repeatedly cite a supposed “labor shortage” and claim the benefits are the reason why many employers are having …read more

Source:: Business Insider


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