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The $600 benefit ends in July. Economists are not optimistic about what happens next

Adrienne Roberts, Detroit Free Press on

Published in Business News

DETROIT -- Sandra Smith lost her job when restaurants shut down for dine-in service in March. The waitress didn't start receiving unemployment until June, even though she applied in April.

While she recently went back to her job as a waitress at the restaurant Calexico in downtown Detroit, it's not the same as before. Smith is making less than half of what she did, due to the restaurant operating at half capacity and less demand.

She is planning to file for partial unemployment benefits because she's working less than full-time, but is worried about the extra $600 federal benefit expiring at the end of July.

"It's definitely going to be a struggle without extra pandemic assistance," said Smith, 37, of Detroit. "Without the pandemic money, I'll have to live day-to-day. I'll pretty much always be broke until things pick back up."

For Smith, the benefits provided a lifeline, helping her to pay rent and utilities, and to put food on the table for the three children she has at home.

That benefit officially ends nationally at the end of the month, but will expire on July 25 in Michigan because of the way the state's unemployment payment schedule is set up.

 

Moving forward, claimants receiving unemployment benefits will collect money only from the state, which maxes out at $362 a week. That's unless Congress approves new legislation extending the $600 extra benefit.

By and large, Democrats are pushing for an extension, either at the full or a reduced amount, while many Republicans argue the $600 encourages claimants to not go back to work because they make more collecting unemployment.

"The $600 made it so that people could get by," said Michele Evermore, senior policy analyst of the Washington, D.C., nonprofit National Employment Law Project. "It prevented the economy from collapsing."

The extra weekly payment of $600 is part of the CARES Act, a $1.8 trillion package Congress passed to help the country face the economic consequences of the coronavirus pandemic.

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