It isn’t a happy holiday for millions of Americans who are losing jobless benefits as three federal programs expire on Monday. More than 8 million people who are out of work across the United States will be losing all their benefits this week. Numbers vary slightly depending on who’s counting, with some putting the number at 7 million and others closer to 9 million. In addition, there are almost three million people who will lose a $300 weekly bonus on their state unemployment benefits. Regardless of the exact numbers, it means millions of people in the United States may suddenly find it difficult to make ends meet at a time when COVID-19 cases are soaring across the country fueled by the highly infectious delta variant. Experts characterize it as one of the most abrupt ends to government aid in U.S. history, notes the Washington Post.
President Joe Biden has said states can use federal funds to extend the jobless benefits beyond Labor Day, but none have expressed any interest in doing so even though there are signs that the spread of the delta variant is cooling down hiring and could slow down general economic growth. The country added only 235,000 jobs in August, which is lower than what economists had been expecting and marked the smallest rise since January.
Although some politicians are eager to end benefits, claiming it will help fill the record 10 million job openings across the country, the past has shown that the effect isn’t really immediate. States that cut jobless benefits earlier in the summer did not see a significant improvement in their labor markets and saw similar job growth when compared to states that maintained the programs. Millions of people say childcare is keeping them out of the workforce, while millions more say they continue to be scared about contracting or spreading the coronavirus.
The slashing of benefits comes at a time when the number of people applying for jobless aid has dropped to the lowest level since the pandemic began in March of last year. But the number of people who are losing benefits is much higher than in previous instances when unemployment aid was expanded, notes the Associated Press. After the 2008-2009 Great Recession, jobless aid was extended to 99 weeks and by the time it ended, only 1.3 million people were receiving aid.