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Federal Pandemic Jobless Benefits Ending Despite Rising COVID-19 Cases

Millions of unemployed workers will be kicked off federal pandemic unemployment assistance (PUA) on Saturday (Sept. 4), even though the return to work is backsliding amid the escalating number of COVID-19 cases due to the delta variant, CNBC and other news outlets reported on Tuesday (Aug. 31).

PUA was sanctioned by Congress last March as the pandemic took hold. The extra benefits were an expansion of traditional unemployment allowances to help households hang on as the economy largely tanked. 

Pandemic benefits were prolonged twice during COVID-19, amid changing classifications of who was eligible, such as gig workers and independent contractors. Without congressional intervention, the additional assistance will end this weekend. 

See also: US Chamber of Commerce Calls for End of Boosted Unemployment

An estimated 8.8 million people across the country will lose benefits altogether, according to the think tank The Century Foundation, while some three million will see benefits drop $300. 

Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BEA) indicated that the average person would receive about $321 without the PUA, roughly 38 percent of whatever constituted their wage before being laid off, according to reports.

“We’re cutting benefits off when many, many individuals are still relying on them,” according to Till von Wachter, an economics professor at the University of California Los Angeles and director of the California Policy Lab, CNBC reported.

“This is sort of a recurring problem in American recessions. We ask politicians to come up with benefit programs, and they set end and start dates,” he added. “They’re set in advance and have nothing to do with how the economy is.”

See also: COVID Concerns Trigger 1.1% Slump in July Retail Sales amid Swirl of Conflicting Factors

The termination of PUA benefits is supported by many, including the White House, as worker shortages persist while an estimated 832,000 new positions have been added every month since May. The unemployment rate has now dropped to 5.4 percent, an indication that the U.S. economy is bouncing back.

See also: New Jobless Claims Inch up as Delta Soars and Labor Shortage Continues

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