As of September 6, 2021, the extra federal unemployment benefits have ended. These benefits have been a literal lifeline for millions of Americans for about a year and a half now. Now, more than 7 million citizens will have to live without the vital aid that helped them survive the Covid-19 pandemic and lockdown.
Nearly 3 million more Americans have their checks reduced by $300 every week. This means almost 11 million Americans are now without unemployment benefits to help tide them through the pandemic’s effects on the job market.
Post pandemic problems
These relief payments were a massive help during the Covid-19 for unemployed Americans to continue paying for food, rent, and other essentials. Affirming that the effects of the pandemic are starting to wane and life is getting back to normal, 26 states already ended the extra unemployment benefits.
Some governors said that this was done since these benefits were dissuading the unemployed to remain unemployed and not get back to work.
However, many feel that people are only now searching for jobs and while many have got jobs already, it will take some time for everyone to be employed again.
The impacts of these benefits ending are seen more among caregivers and women who quit their jobs and also among Latinx and Black workers who face discrimination in the job market.
Which are the unemployment benefits that ended?
Here is a list of the four federal unemployment benefits that ended on September 6th:
- Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation: This was a supplemental employment benefit of $300 per week. It sometimes went as high as $600 per week.
- Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation: These were providing financial aid to citizens who exhausted the unemployment benefits given to them by their states.
- Pandemic Unemployment Assistance: These employment benefits were targeted towards helping freelancers and self-employed Americans.
Why did the enhanced unemployment benefits end?
The Cares Act was a $2.2 trillion stimulus package designed to combat the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic. In March 2020, the enhanced unemployment insurance was introduced as a temporary measure to help Americans. This was further extended by Congress in March 2021 up until September 6.
These measures were meant to be temporary, aimed to help affected Americans get through the large-scale unemployment created by the pandemic.
Therefore, it does not look like there will be any further extension of the enhanced unemployment benefits. Congress has not indicated any extension either.
However, if there is a resurgence of the Covid-19 virus impacting the labor market, the government could implement new unemployment benefits.
Can you still apply for unemployment insurance?
This depends on the unemployment benefits policy of your state. Every state has different regulations for its unemployment benefits policy. In general, there are certain criteria you need to fulfill if you are looking to qualify for unemployment benefits:
- Your unemployment gshould not be your fault: This means you should be unemployed due to lack of available work in your field. If you were fired or quit your job, you dol not qualify.
- You meet the wage and/or hour criteria: You should qualify for the number of hours worked or wages earned. This differs from one state to another.
- You meet other requirements if any: Each state may have its own set of additional requirements. You have to meet these before qualifying for unemployment benefits.
Are there other relief programs still available?
Yes, there are. Here is a list of other COVID-19 relief programs that are still available:
- If you’re finding it hard to pay rent, check out the rent relief programs available in your state. A few states still provide utility aid.
- If you’re a homeowner and are unable to pay the mortgage, talk to your lender about COVID-19 forbearance. The last date to apply for this is September 30.
- State and local aid programs can help you get assistance to bear the expenses related to child care.
- Check if you’re eligible to get Child Tax Credit payments. You can get up to $3,600 per child, aimed at helping parents bear the expenses of raising children.
- See if you qualify for SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program). There are food stamps and can help you get groceries if you’re not able to afford them. There are also other food aid programs for seniors, women, and children.
- You don’t have to repay student loans and the interest till January 31. Save up this money.
- If you have outstanding credit card bills, talk to your card issuers. This will help reduce the interest rates or even settle your debt.
What do I do if I exhaust my unemployment benefits?
Unemployment benefits running low? Here are a few things you can do:
- Get any job that comes your way. Survival is more important in your situation.
- Cut back on expenses. Look at your costs and spending and reduce them as much as possible.
- See you if you can get help from family or friends for the time being.
- Got an emergency fund? Use it!
- If you have a 401(k) plan, see if you can get penalty-free loans.
- Slowly start contributing to your emergency fund once you start making money, even if it is a small amount every month.