Several weeks ago the US Chamber of Commerce began leading cries of a labor shortage to try to justify lobbying for the end of federal extended unemployment benefits of $300 per week that were put in place until September 2021. The benefits were initially put into place to bolster broken state unemployment systems around the US, which continue to experience massive backlogs, delays, missed payments, and holds on the benefits of unemployed workers.
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Media publications churned out stories featuring interviews with bosses, bereft of any workers’ voices, echoing these claims without substantiating them with any data or statistical evidence.
The result has been 23 states, all Republican led, have announced plans to end federal extended unemployment benefits in a few weeks. These decisions will cut off or severely reduce unemployed benefits for around 3.7 million unemployed workers in the US. Some elected officials and organizations have called on the US Department of Labor to ensure federal extended benefits are provided to unemployed workers based on CARES Act provisions, but the Biden Administration has signaled they don’t have the ability to challenge the decisions.
On May 23, Florida became the 23rd state to announce plans to end federal extended unemployment benefits for unemployed workers.
Melinda Shannon lost her job in restaurant management in the Tampa, Florida area when the coronavirus pandemic shutdowns began in March 2020. She went from having a stable income, a car, a home, a savings account, to losing everything during the pandemic.
“As I think back to the beginning of 2020 life wasn't so bad. We had a nice home, good job, a savings account, a few investments, a car with insurance and tags, low debit and a few new clothes every once and a while. Today that list is nonexistent . Over the past 13 months I have been making every effort to gain back a portion of our life prior to March 2020.” she told me.
Shannon described her issues in trying to find another suitable job as the restaurant she worked for has permanently closed, while experiencing months’ long delays in her unemployment benefits and fighting to try to get a hold of a representative at the Florida Department of Employment Opportunity on a regular basis. She added,
“Hundreds of hours have been spent researching job openings, composing a dozen different resumes that were tailored to specific jobs, applying for 64 posted positions while at the same time remaining on hold for hours at a time trying to contact a knowledgeable person at Florida DEO. As of today's date, 5/25/21, I have attended 11 interviews out of the 64 applications I submitted. Because I invested so much time into every job I applied for I made serious efforts to follow-up with every one of them.”
The responses she has received from the jobs she has applied to have ranged from telling her she was overqualified, that they filed her application after receiving an overwhelming number of responses, or the job she applied to has closed. She also noted many employers have been deceiving in job postings by advertising jobs with higher wages and full-time scheduling, only to amend the pay, switching it to part-time, and amending the job requirements prior to hiring.
Now that her federal extended unemployment benefits are set to be cancelled early, she expressed feelings of devastation, despair, and demoralization after an already rough 13-14 months surviving the coronavirus pandemic. She concluded,
“Now because of Florida's decision concerning the early ending of FPUC I foresee the hardships my family is about to endure once again. Having been given only a few weeks notice on Florida's decision to end FPUC I am not sure what will happen to the families that depend and planned the upcoming months on that weekly $300 to try to survive. I know as I contemplate the future I am terrified.”