Millions of Jobless Americans Will Lose Pandemic Benefits on Labor Day

By: - September 3, 2021 12:00 am

A Now Hiring sign advertises jobs at a bowling alley in Winter Garden, Florida. The federal weekly pandemic unemployment benefit will end Sept. 6 even though many Americans continue to apply for assistance. Phelan M. Ebenhack/The Associated Press

Millions of Americans in about half the states will lose federal pandemic weekly unemployment benefits when the program ends Sept. 6.

Nearly two dozen Republican-led states and one Democratic-led state already had ended the -a-week benefit earlier than the federal cutoff date. At least two states, Indiana and Maryland, later reinstated benefits.

The governors ending the aid argued that it discouraged people from seeking employment. But economists say cutting off federal aid affects people’s livelihoods—especially for people of color and residents of rural areas saddled with slow job growth, meager transportation options and limited employment opportunities.

State-level jobs data showed there was not a significant gain in employment in states that cut off benefits early compared with those that continued it, Reuters reported.

In July, unemployed residents in at least five states—Indiana, Maryland, Ohio, Oklahoma and Texas—filed separate lawsuits to force states to continue the benefits. That same month, the Biden administration announced that states that opted to cease participation in the programs could restart them, CNN reported. Indiana and Maryland both did so.

In Ohio, two attorneys—including former Attorney General Marc Dann, a Democrat—filed a lawsuit to continue federal assistance, but a Franklin County judge denied the request.

“The court is aware of, and sympathetic to, the thousands of Ohioans without work and in desperate need of any assistance available,” Judge Michael J. Holbrook wrote. “The court simply cannot legislate from the bench and overlook the clear terms of [Ohio law].”

While U.S. unemployment claims have reached the lowest level since the pandemic began, the most recent Department of Labor data shows that about 340,000 new unemployment claims were filed during the week ending Aug. 28. During that period, 47 states reported more than 9.2 million continued weekly claims for the $300 extra pandemic benefits.

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Aallyah Wright

Aallyah Wright reports on rural affairs and leads race and equity coverage for Stateline. Previously, Aallyah worked for Mississippi Today, a digital nonprofit newsroom covering K-12 education and government in the Mississippi Delta.