There is nothing like a conversation about unemployment benefits to get Uncle Sam and Aunt Karen up in arms. They’re absolutely sure the government pulling the rug out from underneath the feet of nearly 10 million people who relied on these benefits is the answer to the workforce shortage. Yeah, okay. They think people aren’t working because they make so much more staying at home. I mean, it couldn’t possibly be because of legitimate concerns about getting sick with or dying from Covid.
At the beginning of the pandemic, when all hell broke loose, businesses were shut down left and right. And of course, their employees were being laid off. The government had an ‘oh shit’ moment when they realized with all these people out of work the economy was most certainly headed down the tubes. I mean, when you have no money to spend, what keeps the economy rolling?
So they did the logical thing. They increased the amount of benefits people would normally qualify for and qualified people to collect benefits who usually couldn’t receive them. The money was spent, the economy rolled, and all was good (except, of course, Covid still raging). Well, all of that changed on Monday when the politicians let unemployment policies expire that had been in place for the last year and a half.
We Will All Feel the Ripple Effect
The deadline for the change to these unemployment benefits has been impending for some time, and yet, there was no mass return to the workforce. Is it possible that the increase in benefits wasn’t to blame? Guess what happens when people don’t have work or assistance to sustain them? They don’t have money to spend. And I’m not talking about spending money on wants like dining out or a new car. Hell, not even on needs. How will people afford their housing? Will they be able to feed their family? Here is the honest, uncomfortable truth. Just because you’ve never experienced food or shelter insecurity doesn’t mean it isn’t a real concern for many families and people. And when I say many, I’m talking 1 in 4 households.
Do lawmakers really think people who received unemployment benefits spend it all on getting massages and hitting the salon? No. I can’t speak for everyone who receives these benefits but the entire point of this payment is to replace the income that’s been lost, not fund a lavish lifestyle. We’re quickly going to be back to where politicians feared we’d end up at the beginning of the pandemic.
The less security people have, the more conservative they’ll be with their resources. In turn, they won’t be visiting the neighborhood small businesses. And that small businesses? They’ll feel the strain, and to ease the pain, they’re going to raise prices or cut employees to stay afloat. Ya dig?
While I’ve never collected unemployment benefits, I have worked on the other side of the desk. I’ve interviewed people to qualify them for benefits, and I’ve also worked in the program integrity unit. People aren’t asking to make a living off of unemployment, they’re looking for support for the in between time.
What Would Actually Be Helpful?
One of the biggest obstacles people who are unemployed face are being able to find the time and ability to interview. Of course, things are a little different with the pandemic and companies conducting virtual interview, but for many customer service or food service jobs this isn’t an option. When you aren’t working, you aren’t sending your kids to daycare, because you’re home right? But do you know how hard it can be to find one-off care? Daycares don’t always accept random drop-offs, nor does everyone have family they can rely on.
And here’s the thing, if parents are able to overcome the obstacle of interviewing and getting the job, but then need to turn to daycare in exchange for part-time or full-time work, they also have to weigh the cost. According to an article on Care.com, on average families are spending between $340 to $640 a week on daycare. Don’t worry, I’ll do the math for you — that’s somewhere around $2,000 or more a month. The prices of daycare are astronomical, and while that isn’t news, it’s something everyone conveniently forgets when they say people don’t go back to work because they make more on unemployment… Y’all, these numbers don’t lie.
But what about people without children? What’s their excuse? Something most law makers seem to have forgotten is that Covid is still a very real, very dangerous thing. When a prospective employee is interviewing and accepting a job they’d be amiss to not take into consideration what is the chance they’ll be exposed to Covid on the job. And if they do contract Covid, what are the chances their employer offers affordable healthcare coverage that won’t bankrupt them? Or enough paid time off to allow them to recover?
There are so many questions. So many what-if scenarios. The only thing we do know for sure, is that cutting off millions of people from unemployment benefits was not the answer. A change this dramatic will have repercussions far beyond an individual level. It’s going to impact the economy, businesses, and every single American.