By Peter Malbin
More than 7 million Americans are in jeopardy of losing their unemployment aid immediately after Labor Day. Gig workers and other unemployed Americans who qualified for pandemic relief programs will stop getting checks on Sept. 7, along with the $300 weekly federal supplement to traditional jobless benefits.
When asked whether there could be a possible extension of these benefits, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki told reporters on Aug. 6: “At this point, they’re expiring at the beginning of September. Nothing has changed on that front, but a final decision has not been made.”
Congress would need to pass legislation to extend benefits, and Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., would not be in favor of that. “I’m done with extensions,” Manchin told Insider last week, reported the The Hill. “The economy is stronger now, the job market is stronger. Nine million jobs we can’t fill. We’re coming back.”
The U.S. added 943,000 jobs in July, with the unemployment rate dropping from 5.9% to 5.4%. The country ended the month with a record 10 million job openings. Labor force participation also increased as workers got vaccinated and returned to the job search.
There are significant racial disparities when it comes to unemployment. For whites, unemployment dropped to 4.8% in July, but the Black unemployment rate fell from 9.2% to 8.2%. And Hispanic unemployment fell from 7.4% to 6.6%.
“Our long-term unemployed, our Black and Latinx workers continue to need these benefits because, due to systemic racism, they face longer periods of unemployment,” said Jenna Gerry, senior staff attorney with the National Employment Law Project, an advocacy group that supports expanded jobless benefits and greater labor protections.
Gerry and other experts estimate that 7.5 million stand to lose all of their unemployment aid after Labor Day, reported The Hill. This includes 4.3 million gig workers and contractors who are recipients of Pandemic Unemployment Assistance and roughly 3.2 million Americans receiving Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation, which provides up to 53 weeks of additional aid for those who’ve exceeded their state allowances.
Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA), Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC), and Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) were first introduced in the CARES Act of March 2020 under former president Donald Trump and were subsequently extended by President Joe Biden one year later.
A number of states have voluntarily withdrawn from the $300 weekly federal benefit program ahead of the September cut-off date.