Labor Day marks end of federal pandemic unemployment benefits

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Posted at 7:02 PM, Sep 06, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-06 19:56:21-04

When Labor Day comes to a close, thousands of people in Indiana and Kentucky will lose the financial safety nets created to help them survive the COVID-19 pandemic.

The blow is threefold: Gig workers no longer qualify for unemployment insurance. People who are unemployed can no longer receive an extra $300 in benefits. And the amount of time a person can receive unemployment benefits reverts to 26 weeks.

Sarah Hess, a festival performer who struggled to get the unemployment payments she was owed after festival season was effectively canceled, said she’s worried again about gig workers like herself.

“It’s going to put a real strain on families that are part of the gigging industry,” Hess said. “It could lead to instability with their homes, it can lead to instability with getting their bills taken care of, food on the table.”

But University of Cincinnati economist Michael Jones said he can understand the argument that the time is right to remove certain pandemic support structures.

“In the peak of the crisis, there were five workers that were looking for every one job,” he said.

Now, there are 10 million available jobs to 8 million unemployed workers nationwide.

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine withdrew his state from the federal government’s extra pandemic unemployment protections in June, yielding to business owners’ arguments that the payments were preventing people from finding jobs.

“There are several reasons people are not going back to work,” Jones said.

They include rising COVID-19 cases and the struggle to find childcare, among others. While the benefits go, Sarah Hess said she’s not sure the recovery of the American economy will last much longer.

“We are a little worried about another shutdown, so I’m trying to get as many jobs and gigs as I can now,” she said.