Updated: Sep 7
Republican gubernatorial candidate Larry Elder, who has virtually no chance to win, is a black right-winger who, as you might guess, opposes reparations for the descendants of slaves. For the descendants of slave owners, he seems open to discussing reparations. Back in July he was a guest on the radio show of another African-American fascist shill for the wealthy, Candace Owens. "Like it or not, slavery was legal. Their legal property was taken away from them after the Civil War, so you could make an argument that the people that are owed reparations are not only just Black people but also the people whose 'property' was taken away after the end of the Civil War." Happy Labor Day!
Millions of Americans-- primarily in states controlled by Republicans-- are not just losing pandemic eviction protections but are also losing, as of Labor Day, jobless benefits, "thrusting," reported Yeganeh Torbati, Andrew Van Dam and Alyssa Flowers, "families and economy onto uncertain path," exactly what the Republicans want to happen in their quest to politically further weaken Biden and the Democrats. The federal funds from 3 programs were meant to ease the problems of the pandemic economy and they all expired today. Politicians may want the pandemic to be over... but that doesn't mean it is. Because of the Party of Death, far too few Americans are vaccinated, unnecessarily prolonging the pandemic... and allowing dangerous new variants to spring up. Over 100,000 new cases were reported in the U.S. on Saturday and Sunday, during which time many states neglected to report.
Just 53% of Americans are fully vaccinated and that number is far lower in red states-- and far, far, far lower in the most backward and primitive red counties. Even the wort of the red states are clustered around 40% vaccinated but the reddest counties in America are nowhere near that. The half dozen least vaccinated states:
West Virginia- 40%
North Dakota- 42%
And these are the reddest counties in each of those states, as measured by their 2020 percentage of votes for Trump:
George Co.- Trump 87.9% (28% fully vaccinated)
Winston Co.- Trump 90.3% (17% fully vaccinated)
Crook Co.- Trump 88.6% (23% fully vaccinated)
Bear Lake Co.- Trump 88.0% (36% fully vaccinated)
Grant Co.- Trump 88.4% (no county stats available)
Slope Co.- Trump 89.0% (9% fully vaccinated)
"In addition to the more than 7 million people who will lose all their benefits," wrote the Post trio, "nearly 3 million more people will lose a $300 weekly boost to their state unemployment benefits. The cessation of this jobless aid, first put in place by Congress nearly 18 months ago, could upend the lives of millions of Americans still struggling to find work at a time when the pandemic’s delta variant is wreaking fresh havoc across a number of states. It could also lead to a sharp pullback in spending, particularly in certain areas of the country, impacting a wide range of restaurants and other businesses that rely on consumer dollars.
“I don’t understand how anyone in Washington cannot know normal people, their friends, families, cousins who are going through this,” said Kathleen Fox, a producer in New York whose past work has been recognized with a prestigious Peabody Award but who has struggled to find work after the pandemic upended her industry. “The [Biden] administration has lost interest in this cause and they’ve moved on to other things.”
The White House has wrestled with how to deal with these expiring benefits, an internal debate that exposes the fraught political and economic consequences of inaction. President Biden said in June that it “makes sense” for one of the programs, which boosted unemployment checks by $300 each week, to lapse in September, but senior aides have also called on states to reallocate other money in a way that would continue offering some support. No states appear inclined to take action, though, leading to this week’s sudden cutoff.
Now there is heightened anxiety, even within the White House, that pulling so many people off government support so abruptly could push millions of people into poverty and cut off access to food or nutrition for people caught on the wrong side of this uneven economy. The jobless rate has fallen and the stock market is near record levels, but many Americans have found themselves unable to recover from the pandemic’s devastating blow.
“I’m predicting a silent type of pain,” said Andrew Stettner, a senior fellow at the Century Foundation think tank and an expert on unemployment insurance, who has estimated that some 7.5 million people will be cut off from aid on the programs’ expiration date. “If past periods have been an indicator, many will be caught in a spiral that will lead to a downward quality of life.”
The programs initially boosted jobless benefits by $600 a week before Congress lowered the amount to $300 a week. They also expanded the pool of workers eligible for government aid and increased the number of weeks workers could draw on unemployment insurance. But this assistance has also emerged as a divisive flash point in a political debate over whether government assistance discourages people from returning to work.
Republicans and numerous business groups have argued the extra benefits were contributing to a labor shortage and slowing the economic recovery, alleging it had become too lucrative for people to stay home rather than get a job. They have called for investigations of fraud in the programs, alleging hundreds of billions of dollars in unemployment aid may have been stolen.
Many Americans who are frightened about the sudden lack of income feel they have been unfairly swept up in a bitter political debate.
“It just feels like being discarded,” said Fox, who was set to see her new projects premiere at major festivals in 2020 before the coronavirus devastated those plans. Now, she applies for around three jobs per day, including ones where she would make far less money than in her last full-time position at an advertising agency, all to no avail. If she is unable to find a job after losing her benefits, she faces the prospect of being forced to sell her apartment.
“The stress of everything has just caused me a lot of emotional distress that I didn’t have before,” she said.
Over the summer, 26 states announced they would end these benefits early, providing a glimpse of what millions of other Americans will now face. Since then, economists have studied data on job gains and spending to see how local economies have reacted to the withdrawal of benefits amid a pandemic, and to determine whether the extra aid was holding back job growth.
Their conclusions are ominous: one study found that for every eight workers who lost benefits, just one managed to find a new job, and found a dramatic reduction in spending, suggesting the people who lost benefits were left in a precarious financial situation.
The cutoff marks the end of a colossal spigot of stimulus funds. About $680 billion in emergency unemployment benefits have been distributed since March 2020, making it one of the biggest coronavirus-era assistance programs, just behind the Paycheck Protection Program ($835 billion), according to the nonpartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget.
The emergency jobless aid was first approved in the spring of 2020 when the economy appeared to be in free-fall and close to 1 million Americans were losing their jobs each day. It was designed to be temporary because of its cost and because lawmakers assumed the pandemic wouldn’t last long.
When they designed the aid package last year, lawmakers created a new type of unemployment aid called Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, which covers workers who normally wouldn’t qualify for unemployment insurance, such as gig workers, caretakers and the self-employed. Those workers tend to be younger and lower-income than those who received benefits from standard unemployment insurance, according to a recent JPMorgan Chase study of banking transactions. The expiration of that program this week means these workers-- who make up about 40 percent of all UI claims during the pandemic-- will no longer be eligible for any unemployment insurance programs.
“I worry that we’re pinning heavy hopes on the economic upside of turning off these benefits when these benefits weren’t the primary factor holding people back from returning to work, and they’re also providing an important boost to spending,” said Fiona Greig, co-president of the JPMorgan Chase Institute.
Recent research by academic scholars found that in states that cut benefits early, every dollar lost in benefits was offset by about 7 cents in increased earnings. That means the Labor Day weekend cuts could cause “something like $8 billion in reduced spending during September and October,” said Arindrajit Dube, an economist at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and one of the researchers who analyzed the effect of the early benefits cutoffs.
Michael Strain, director of economic policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute, cautioned that more months of data are needed to make firm conclusions about the effect of the programs on the labor market. He said he would have preferred for the jobless aid to phase out over several months rather than come to an abrupt end, but that overall it is time for the unemployment benefits to “normalize.”
“The unemployment rate is falling, not rising,” Strain said. “Workers clearly are on the whole going to go out and get jobs.”
It is still unclear whether businesses struggling with labor shortages will find it easier to hire workers in the coming weeks, even as the benefits end. Argosy Cruises, a company offering boat tours in the Seattle area, had a pre-pandemic head count of around 250 people, before it was forced to lay off 85 percent of its staff in August 2020, said chief operating officer Molly Schlobohm. The company gradually relaunched in April, and hiring has been “incredibly challenging,” she said, despite wage increases and signing bonuses.
But even as the cut in benefits looms over the state’s jobless, Argosy has seen no recent change in application numbers, Schlobohm said.
“I don’t really think that the extended unemployment benefits are the sole reason for the labor shortage,” she said. “I’m seeing and hearing from candidates and employees that affordable, quality child care is more of an issue,” she said, along with affordable housing in the Seattle area.
Lisa Lunsford, co-founder of an automotive manufacturing firm in Livonia, Mich., said her company has around 20 immediate job openings, and has received a steady stream of applications for those jobs since July, with no noticeable uptick in recent weeks as the benefits cliff approached.
“I don’t think it’s just that simple. There are so many things that are going on,” Lunsford said. Some people are still afraid to come into the workplace, for instance, and the company has tried to be flexible in creating work arrangements that meet their needs, she said.
Last month, the Biden administration gave states a potential path to helping people who were about to lose benefits: they could use funds provided to states in a March stimulus law, the American Rescue Plan Act, to fill in for some of the lost aid.
The Washington Post asked officials in 24 states and D. C.-- the jurisdictions that had continued the federal benefits as long as possible-- whether they plan to extend the benefits using the ARPA funds. Of those who responded, nearly all said they had no such plans, or indicated that a decision to do so rested with their state legislatures.
"Marco Rubio," Florida progressive Alan Grayson told me, "recently came out against $300 a month checks for children, on the convoluted theory that such a magnificent haul would undermine their parents’ willingness to work. I’m pretty sure that Rubio feels the same way about unemployment insurance. If Rubio could institute a work requirement for unemployment insurance benefits, he would-- 'problem solved,' he’d say." As far as Grayson goes, he told me that he "doesn’t think there should be any artificial limit on the length of unemployment benefits. It’s not as though, after 39 weeks, people don’t need to eat."
Chris Preece is running for Congress in the only viable race in Kentucky. Today he said that "Andy Barr's tweet on Sept. 4th 2021 '...Government unemployment benefits are creating too many disincentives for work and are hitting working Americans where it counts-- the wallet.' I guess it's a disincentive to be immunocompromised and wish to stay safe during a ragging pandemic or be taking care of elderly parents and not want to risk getting COVID and bring it home to them. It's clear Barr has no compassion for these families, and does not care about the lives of regular folks in his district. I, Chris Preece, empathize with the people having to make these hard decisions and would help them, not condemn them. Labor, to Barr, is a machine counting the money in his bank. To me, it's the blood, sweat, and tears that has built this country. Unions help us balance the insatiable greed of capitalism, without them our bones would be ground to dust for another dollar for Barr and his rich friends. Today, I take a moment to thank unions for this beautiful day of rest, a 40 hour work week, weekends, and so much more. I stand as a proud member of the Kentucky Education Association, and American Federation of Teachers."
Central New York progressive Steven Holden said that "John 'COVID Holiday' Katko, like other members of the GOP, supports the ending of Unemployment Benefits, and believes that workers should go back to work, even without sustainable wages. He also did not support COVID relief, which would have helped those workers get back to work quicker. Katko also does not want to pressure GOP governors to release those funds to eligible recipients. As usual, 'Centrist' Dem Francis Conole does not have a position on this issue but is likely closer to Katko than my position. I support federalizing Unemployment Benefits and having the Department of Labor administer said benefits and take them out of the hands of GOP governors who are forcing people back to work. An example of this is the state where my parents live-- Oklahoma. Trumpian Governor Kevin Stitt will not release funds to eligible recipients because he thinks that said benefits are better than working wages. Under my plan, he would be under immediate audit, and until the Department of Labor would oversee these benefits under my plan, Stitt and his GOP buddies would lose any federal subsidies to corporations in their states on a one-to-one basis. In all fairness, Conole and I agree on increasing the $15 minimum wage, but I am the only one with a plan to fix it until his fellow 'Centrists' (Manchin and Sinema) decide to eliminate the Jim Crow filibuster and pass the legislation."
Jason Call, who's running for Congress in northwest Washington told me that "It's a travesty and a tragedy that we are still in the midst of a resurgent pandemic, with millions on the brink of homelessness, tens of millions without adequate healthcare, and Congress is seeing fit to end unemployment benefits for upwards of 9 million Americans. As a body, they are in dereliction of duty to their Constitutional mission to promote the general welfare, and while some are fighting hard for the poor and working class suffering the most (thank you Rep Cori Bush), there are some who are decidedly not making it a priority to ensure the well being of their constituents. Spotlight Rick Larsen, corporate Dem incumbent in WA-02, who has been very vocal about goings on in the House Armed Services Committee as they get ready to pass (once again) the largest defense budget ever and how that will impact the Aviation industry (he's Chair of Aviation), he's said not a word about the unemployment benefits cutoff. Larsen is an austerity minded deficit hawk and on the payroll of the fossil fuel industry and the military industrial complex; taking the real needs of struggling Americans into consideration has literally never been a priority for him. And since it's Labor Day today, it's worth noting that while Larsen does the obligatory "my dad was a lineman" annual tweet for the holiday, when push comes to shove he won't stand up for union rights. He was literally the ONLY Democrat in the 114th Congress on 6/9/2015 to vote against Keith Ellison's amendment to ban federal contracts to firms guilty of violating the Fair Labor Standards Act. Maybe that's why the Washington State Labor Council passed on endorsing him in their first round of endorsements last year. Larsen is a boss' lackey, not a worker's champion. I intend to change that representation."