Millions in US can't afford to celebrate holidays this year

Americans on unemployment are facing expired benefits, low benefits, delays, and backlogs, while millions of workers have reduced work schedules or pay during pandemic

Jocelyn Barnes, a single mother of 8 in New Jersey, had to stop working as a customer service representative in September due to five of her children transitioning to online learning. She filed for unemployment, but her benefits didn’t start until November.

“By that time I was dead broke, living off of small child support payments not being able to afford my rent. Hardly being able to take my son whose lungs had collapsed for the second time back and forth to his doctors visits. I couldn't afford gas. It was terrible,” Barnes said.

She wound up having to go out to find a job while waiting for unemployment and wound up leaving after being exposed to coronavirus. But the six days she worked caused her unemployment benefits to lapse, and she had to refile. As she must wait several weeks for her claim to be adjudicated.

“I have to wait for a claims examiner to contact me on Jan 21, 2021, so my kids will have no Christmas and I haven't received any money in over a month,” Barnes added.

Her family is one of millions across the US who are left with little to no income this holiday season, as Congress has yet to pass another coronavirus relief bill despite a mass eviction cliff looming on January 1, 2021, unemployment benefits expiring for millions on December 26, and coronavirus cases and deaths in the US are currently at higher rates than ever before in the US since the pandemic began.

In West Virginia, Julianne Hoffsinger Hess, was a stay at home mother, as her husband Brian Hess received a comfortable income working in the oil and gas industry. When the pandemic hit, he lost his job, and they’ve managed to survive off of savings and unemployment benefits, though they were only a fraction of the income he was used to receiving. Three days ago, Hess’ unemployment benefits expired with a notice of only a few days.

“At first we weren't in a panic bc we had savings. We knew we could make it and thought he'd find another job within weeks or at the most months. Well that's not the case anymore. Our savings has been drained and no job prospects,” said Hoffsinger-Hess. “Now our savings is gone because my husband wasn't even receiving 40% of what his normal income was through unemployment. We are lucky because our bills are covered until January 1st. Not a clue how we will pay them if they don't extend unemployment.”

Read more at the Guardian