Unemployment Benefits Expire Next Week. Families Are Terrified

Lizzy Francis

In March, when Congress passed the coronavirus relief legislation, part of the legislation ensured that from March until the end of July, people who are unemployed — now marking some 32 million Americans — will no longer benefit from the extra $600 per week federal unemployment benefits that kept many American families afloat amid mass unemployment and a shrinking economy. While this date was always long-approaching, many people — even Congressional members — seemed to operate under the assumption that the benefits would expire on July 31, the very final day of July. Somehow, Congressional policy makers overlooked the fact that unemployment benefits are only paid out on weeks that end on a Saturday or a Sunday. July 31 ends on a Friday.

Well, what does that mean? It means that unemployment benefits are going to end a whole week earlier than lawmakers expected them to — and it means that people on unemployment right now are going to get screwed at the drive through, not least of which because they’ll have $600 short in their monthly budget, but also because after this money expires, there’s little evidence to suggest that Congress will actually scramble to help out the people they are supposed to serve. 

This is despite the fact that Congress had been warned about this technicality both through governmental authorities — the Department of Labor had let Congress know about this in April — and through public reporting. Several news outlets from USA Today to CBS have been writing about this for nearly a month, and yet, no major actions appear to have been taken.

And now it looks like it will take plenty of time before any additional help could be on the way for the dozens of millions of Americans who are struggling to survive, and who could see their unemployment cut by half in a job market that simply isn’t hiring and is in a freefall. And even though the benefit was wonderful, American families are still struggling: 32 percent of American households missed rent or mortgage payments in July; hunger is increasing, and there are broad concerns about an eviction crisis after the unemployment benefits expire and the eviction freeze expires soon. We are in a crisis. The government, it appears, is out for lunch. 

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