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9.1 Million Americans Set to Lose Unemployment Aid by Labor Day


Unemployment aid benefits set to expire by Labor Day leaves 9.1 million Americans scrambling to prepare their finances as most of them have not found new jobs.

Pamela Mohar, 37, who graduated from Eastern Michigan University in April with a master’s degree in creative writing, told CBS MoneyWatch, “Once that last check comes, that will be devastating not to know where the next check will come from.”

She and her partner have prepaid their bills through October with her last check arriving in early September.

Mohar, of Ann Arbor, Michigan, said she’s been looking for a job since last fall when she was working as a graduate assistant, but so far hasn’t had any luck.

Before returning to school, she had worked in retail and as a bartender — an experience she emphasized when applying for jobs. But she suspects employers aren’t willing to hire someone they think might move on if a better job comes along.

Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) is a new program created by lawmakers in 2020 to provide jobless aid to workers who usually don’t qualify for the benefit, such as gig workers and part-time workers. Once PUA ends, those workers won’t qualify for any regular unemployment programs.

This will affect workers of color and women with children, with the latter more likely than men to scale back work during the pandemic because of a lack of child care and remote school, noted Andrew Stettner, a senior fellow at the Century Foundation.

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“There has been almost no discussion about any real policies to avert this or change this, and like a lot of things in the pandemic the scale is a lot bigger than in the past,” Stettner said. “It’s almost like a problem that didn’t need to happen.”

In Oregon, more than 600,000 Oregonians have relied on $10.8 billion worth of benefits from the Oregon Employment Department (OED). About 120,000 got benefits just last week. But many worries just as the federal benefit is about to expire.

“As of right now we are still estimating that unfortunately, approximately 81,000 people may no longer receive benefits for weeks after September 4, when those temporary federal benefit programs end,” said OED acting director David Gerstenfeld.

On the bright side, Kalvin Myint, co-owner of Top Burmese in Northwest Portland, is hopeful the move will improve hiring in the months to come.

Recent data from the Oregon Employment Department show a record number of job vacancies at 98,000. He said that he had a tough time hiring workers.

“We typically see 60 to 100 applications, this is like pre-pandemic,” Myint said. “Now actually you post something, six to about 15 applications would be a very high number.”

Myint said the labor market is very tight and competitive. Many employers are now offering benefits or other perks as incentives.

“You have to be a little more creative to attract the best talent,” he said.

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