Earlier in 2021, the coronavirus outbreak wreaked havoc on the U.S. economy. Millions of people were out of work, and with extremely limited vaccine availability, returning to the workforce was, frankly, a dangerous prospect. Additionally, pandemic-related restrictions in many states have prevented businesses from fully opening.
When vaccines became more readily available, restrictions and mask mandates were largely lifted in an effort to reopen the economy. Lots of jobs were added in May and June. And although the national unemployment rate is still higher than before the pandemic, it is lower than it was earlier in 2021. Despite a vast economic improvement, the weekly unemployment increase of $ 300 approved in March is expected to continue until early September. Many states are ending this increase sooner than expected, assuming the increased benefits keep people from working.
Indiana was among those who wanted to end the increased benefits before their expiration date in September. But state residents fought back – they sued the state to have benefits restored. A judge ruled in favor of these residents, and about 25,000 unemployment benefits were paid into bank accounts to give the unemployed back the $ 300 boost the state drew. Residents of Indiana are entitled to $ 300 per week retroactive to June 26, the original expiration date.
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The unemployed still need help
While some states are experiencing labor shortages, the U.S. economy as a whole has lost millions of jobs from the number available before the pandemic. Stopping unemployment increases can therefore cause hardship for people in states that have done so.
It’s easy to point the finger at increased benefits as the reason so many workers haven’t found jobs in the improving labor market. But other problems also prevent the unemployed from returning to work. One of these problems is the lack of access to affordable child care. Full-time care wipes out too much of the income of many low-income earners. Some parents may need to delay re-entering the workforce until August or September, when schools open and childcare becomes free for much of the day.
Health problems can also prevent people from finding employment. Not everyone is eligible for a coronavirus vaccine, and those who are not may not want to expose themselves to maskless in order to collect a paycheck.
Indiana isn’t the only state where residents have clawed back their increased benefits. Maryland was recently ordered to bring back the boost as well, and lawsuits are underway in Texas and Ohio.
While the US economy is finally in a better position, that doesn’t necessarily justify taking that $ 300 lifeline away from the unemployed. The reinstatement of subsidized unemployment benefits only confirms this point.