Over a dozen states are ceasing the $300 weekly extra federal unemployment benefit 3.5 months early, while also ending jobless benefits to independent contractors, freelancers, and workers who have exhausted their state-level benefits.
Why? Ask the GOP. Congress the extended $300 weekly boost through early September as part of the American Rescue Plan Act. The states axing the benefit are all helmed by Republican governors. The GOP has long argued that payments to unemployed people disincentivize workers from returning to work. The states ending the benefit include:
- South Carolina
- South Dakota
Though Republicans say that their states face labor shortages, economic experts note that typically unemployed workers cannot take available jobs, due to either lack of training or logistical issues such as childcare. For example, the home-building industry has crippling worker shortages in some regions due to endemic training challenges that predate the pandemic.
Nearly two million workers are affected; half a million are expected to lose $300 per week in two weeks. The other affected groups, which include gig or freelance workers and those who have exhausted their state’s annual unemployment allotments, risk losing all of their benefits. Democrats and other progressives, including Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, are working to bypass governors by maintaining the expanded gig and part-time benefits through the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program (PUA), which is federal, not state.