Tuesday, March 02, 2021

‘I don’t have money for food’: millions of unemployed in US left without benefits



Michael Sainato
Tue 2 Mar 2021 03.00 EST


State unemployment systems continue experiencing long delays, backlogs of unemployed claims, errors and long arbitration periods that have left millions of workers in the US without any unemployment benefits while they are out of work due to the coronavirus pandemic.

An analysis of unemployed workers in January 2021 by the labor economist Eliza Forsythe at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, estimated unemployment systems are currently only reaching at most 30% of all unemployed workers, leaving an estimated 8 million unemployed Americans not receiving benefits.

Several states still have thousands of unemployed claims backlogged. Total initial weekly unemployment claims have declined in recent weeks but have remained higher than the worst week of the 2008 recession for 49 straight weeks. The US labor market currently has 9.9m fewer jobs than before the pandemic.

According to a Washington Post analysis in January 2021, more than 1.2 million Americans were waiting on appeals to denied unemployment claims or for their initial claims to be processed.

Officially the US unemployment rate is 6.3% but as the Federal Reserve chair, Jerome Powell, noted last month the real unemployment rate in the US is closer to 10% when misclassification errors are taken into account.


Jackie Warner of Lakewood, New Jersey, lost her position in payroll when the pandemic started in March 2020. It took until May to start receiving benefits, and she hasn’t received anything since her pandemic benefits expired in December 2020.

“This has been an awful time for many of us. When we call the Reemployment Center we cannot get through on the phones. There is a message that states to call back the next day. The next day never comes,” said Warner. “It’s still a mess.”

The Biden administration’s $1.9tn Covid relief plan passed the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives on Saturday. It would pay $1,400 to struggling Americans if it passes in the Senate. But for those struggling now, there is little relief.

Warner has applied for dozens of jobs around her area through the pandemic, with no luck, while she has no income because her unemployment benefits have yet to restart.

“I’ve lost my health insurance; my car is in desperate need of repairs and I do not have money to buy food,” added Warner.

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