For Lorena Schneehagen, the additional $600 unemployment payment each week during the coronavirus pandemic has held her family’s expenses together.
She’s an out-of-work preschool teacher in Ann Arbor, Mich., whose son is about to start college.
“I need that to help pay his tuition,” Schneehagen said. “And for food and just to pay the general bills.”
Tens of millions of Americans who lost their jobs because of the pandemic are now in danger of having their incomes slashed for a second time. The supplemental unemployment benefits of $600 per week that Congress approved four months ago are set to expire in less than two weeks — threatening to hurt strapped households and the U.S. economy, as billions of dollars’ worth in spending suddenly comes to a halt.
As Congress comes back into session this week, lawmakers will debate whether to extend the supplemental benefits, which have been a lifeline for more than 30 million people across the United States.
“The extra $600 from the government has obviously helped me tremendously,” said bartender Courtney Woodruff, who lost her job at a Denver brewpub. “I don’t really spend a lot. My money is going towards rent and food right now.”
While ordinary unemployment benefits usually cover just a fraction of a worker’s lost wages, the additional $600 per week from the federal government was designed to fully replace the average worker’s missing paycheck.