'Extremely cruel move:' Jobless workers brace for early end to unemployment benefits in 25 states
On Saturday, the $ 380 weekly unemployment benefit that Robyn Gregorieff and her husband relied on for their basic needs will be cut by 79%, leaving the couple with just $ 80 a week to live on.
She would have been eligible for the higher amount through September had it not been for her home state of Alaska canceling federal unemployment programs prematurely due to mounting concerns about labor shortages.
"It doesn't make sense because the federal government pays for it," the 43-year-old Gregorieff told Yahoo Money. “Why would you just take it away other than just being cruel? The jobs won't magically appear. "
Gregorieff is one of 300,000 workers in Alaska, Iowa, Missouri and Mississippi whose benefits will be slashed or slashed to zero starting June 12, states are also removing the benefits and cutting off a much-needed lifeline.
Robyn Gregorieff and her grandson. Photo: Courtesy of Gregorieff
Gregorieff, who had lost her job as a pharmacy technician in January, only received unemployment benefits in April because the application process was so slow. A month later, Alaska decided to withdraw from the programs.
"As Alaska's economy opens up, employers are posting a wide variety of job vacancies and a workforce is needed," said Tamika Ledbetter, Alaska's commissioner for labor and human resources, in a press release Jan.
But Gregorieff's job search has been difficult so far. She cannot find a job as a pharmacy technician and has no luck with other jobs.
“I applied for all kinds of jobs, for example as a school bus driver. You don't need a driver because school is over now, ”said Gregorieff. "For every single pharmacy technician in town that I applied to ... there are only so many pharmacies, so they only need that many pharmacy technicians."
"We wouldn't have any food, we wouldn't pay for our electricity"
The move to end state unemployment programs prematurely gained momentum among Republican governors after the disappointing job report in April. House Republicans - including House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) - urged all GOP governors to opt out. Massachusetts and Vermont are the only states with GOP governors that haven't canceled the programs yet.
On Saturday, workers in Alaska, Iowa, Missouri, and Mississippi will lose access to 12 weeks of government-funded benefits. These include the additional $ 300 weekly benefits, the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program for workers who are normally not eligible for unemployment, and the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) program, which offers additional weekly benefits.
Nearly 3 in 5 workers in the 25 states that have early expiration will no longer receive any benefits.
This includes Lisa Jones, who worked as an event planner for a St. Louis, Missouri hotel and was laid off in March 2020. She is currently on $ 580 in benefits, but her final payment will be on Saturday.
"If my benefits drop to zero, I'll have to live on my savings," the 54-year-old told Yahoo Money. "My husband didn't lose his job in the pandemic, it keeps us afloat."
Read more: Can your employer force you to vaccinate? Sometimes.
The cut in benefits will also cause disproportionate harm to people of color.
For example, two-thirds of unemployment insurance recipients in Mississippi are black, while in South Carolina and Alabama it is about half. The percentage of black Americans who depend on unemployment in these three states is at least three times the national average of 18%.
"This is an extremely cruel move by the 25 Republican governors to end this vital lifeline of the pandemic early," Alexa Tapia, unemployment insurance campaign coordinator at the National Employment Law Project, told Yahoo Money. "This will definitely harm these workers, and they are primarily colored workers."
People receive groceries from a local charity in the Queens borough of New York City on June 4, 2021 in New York City. The US economy created 559,000 jobs in May, bringing the unemployment rate down from 6.1 percent to 5.8 percent. Despite the positive economic news, millions of Americans are still looking for work or in need of financial, food, and housing assistance. (Photo by Spencer Platt / Getty Images)
"We're not sitting on money"
According to analysis by the Century Foundation, approximately 4.5 million workers in these 25 states combined will lose $ 25.2 billion in benefits, an average of thousands of dollars per worker if they end the federal benefits on Sept. 6 receive.
Gregorieff and her husband have relied on their performance while he is completing a six-week union carpenter apprenticeship which leaves him unemployed, but he is still awaiting approval.
Her accomplishments helped pay her $ 945 monthly rent as well as utility bills, which added an additional $ 410 per month. It was approved in April to reduce the rent, but is still waiting for payments. She worries that she will not be able to pay the rent for the next month.
Read more: How to Negotiate Your First Salary
“Unemployment survived the last few weeks that I got,” said Gregorieff. "If I hadn't been unemployed, we wouldn't have got any gasoline, we wouldn't have food, we wouldn't have paid for our electricity, we wouldn't have cell phones."
The extra benefits helped keep Gregorieff and Jones afloat, but neither got more from unemployment than from their work, a frequent criticism of the GOP and a factor they blame for keeping workers out of the labor market. Both were actively looking for jobs while receiving social benefits, but were not lucky.
"We don't sit on the money and we don't play with the money," said Jones. “The money is a good help from the government, but it is like catching up. I will catch up now, but I will fall back again because it will stop. "
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Denitsa is a writer for Yahoo Finance and Cashay, a new personal finance website. Follow her on Twitter @denitsa_tsekova
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