The Indicator from Planet Money - When $600 Goes Away

Millions of jobless Americans are desperate to know whether their unemployment benefits will be extended, and by how much. But Congress just went on vacation.

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everyone Cardiff and Stacy here. This is the indicator from Planet Money. There has been a lot of Sound and Fury this week about unemployment benefits. The question of the center of everything has to do with the extra $600 a week that Congress had added to unemployment benefits as part of the cures act back in March. It was extra benefits expired at the end of July and that means most of the 30 million Americans on unemployment saw their weekly income drop in half Economist warned that this could be a huge crisis with people losing their homes and not having enough food to eat. The Congress had been expected to extend those benefits in some way the Republicans and Democrats are deadlocked and most legislators have left for their August break over the weekend the White House stepped in President Trump announce the federal government and States would team up to get people in extra $400 a week, but many states are protest in

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They don't have the money to hold up their part of the president's plan. So now the latest is the people will see an extra $300 every week on their unemployment check all coming from the federal government, but there's still a lot of confusion over how long people have to wait to get that extra cash. One of those people is Sandy via Toto tours in Phoenix, Arizona and she worked as a housekeeper at the Sheraton. Sandy has two kids including a baby for husband works in construction. His work is going away as well after the break Sandy talks to us about what this means for her and for her family.

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Sandy thank you for joining us. Thank you for having me Sandy. You were laid off back in March from your job as a housekeeper at the Sheraton at the same time. Your husband's construction work has largely dried up. So what is this. Been like for you? It was just a scary moment because my husband's check wasn't enough. We're all the bills that we had when I had a lot of bills from when I had my daughter still coming in from the hospital. So it was just it was all just coming so fast that I couldn't keep up with that. I'm did did the did your unemployment benefits get you back to what you had been earning before you lost your job. Yes. We were perfectly fine with my husband checking my check. It wasn't like like, oh my God. Yes, we're going to have so much money. Now it was enough for us to like keep going with the bills that we already had three covid and whatever like you and you're

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Biggest expenses we're renting a house and that's $1,000 a month on my car. I'm still paying off my car which is almost $400 a month. I had to get internet service for my son since he started going back to school for his remote learning. So it's not like it's a it's like once that we were why it's nice. When did you first find out that the $600 would be going away potentially lost my news from Facebook. I shouldn't say that but what's my news from Facebook? Pretty much everybody was saying like all that, you know, the benefits were going to end in July.

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I was kind of scared I was like, oh my God. I hope July doesn't end so fast, you know, I was just hoping that July was stretch on forever, but it's their had to come to an end at one point. I have you gotten one of the unemployment checks that does not include the $600 yet. Yeah, actually this week we got the the one with no without the 600. What was that like

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Chihuahua text when everything and then when it came out with it came to 214 $214. Yeah from like 800 more than 800.

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Yeah, that's a lot less. Yeah, and what does that mean for your family? We have to choose between you know paying the rent on time or you know paying for groceries the baby she's going out of clothes so fast that I can't keep up with that, you know the bills to be paid on time and then still having to buy clothes for the baby buy diapers buy wipes, you know, everything that she needs to be. Okay. I mean cuz yeah, you've just seen your income drop by like more than 70% exactly. So you mention like this might mean choosing between groceries and brands does that mean that like, maybe maybe you won't pay rent this this month probably not. I'm not sure my husband's like I said, my husband's work has been slowing down a lot. If so and usually this is the time where like I would back him up. So now that I don't have that money to be

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Where am I going to get that money from? Yeah, I mean one thing that that lawmakers in Washington have said is there talking this through is that they're worried that adding to $600 a week on to unemployment is stopping people from going back to work. Do you think that's true? That is so not true. I actually didn't want to go back to work. I I've been working since I was 17 and I've I've never asked for unemployment. I've always dozzino like while I was working. I would save enough to be okay for like to look for another job, but it's all that stuff. Everybody saying like we're lazy we don't want to go back to work because of the 600. It's not true most of us want to return back to our jobs but my jobs in hospitality and it's traveling everything nobody wants to travel anymore. So how am I supposed to return back to work where it's not open? I mean

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Nearby to a couple other places but they're not calling anybody saying go get a job. Like where am I going to go get a job from no one's hiring. Its you're looking ahead to the next month or two without that additional money. Like what is the thing that worries you the most just losing my mind and losing my house losing everything that I work so hard for I mean if I just did something of that I just don't want to you know, especially since you know, I worked every day for you know, five years up. I took the current job that I'm at, you know when it's so hard. Just not to

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got to see myself working anymore, you know and

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I just want to get back to normal is pretty much what I'm trying to say. Yeah, you were working 7 days a week 7 days a week and sometimes I would even work more than 8 hours a day. We just need a little bit of help for now and you know, we'll work our butts off you're not as soon as we get back to work cuz that's all we have ever known as we work work work, you know just to get ahead and just do you know be okay with our families be have food on the table have a roof over our heads. We're not we're not lazy people were hard-working people that just need a little bit of help for now.

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Yeah, is is homelessness like a real worried? That's that's a lot. Honestly it is it is and I stayed up nights. Just hoping that some miracle come that I don't have to resort to that or you know having to ask someone to let me stay with them for like a little while while I get back on my feet yet. I've never been a person to ask for handle. Like I said, I've always been the person that working working working and always having everything that I need that my cat Kneads and

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I feel so boring or will like I don't I hate asking for help and he asked me for handle. But you know, if it's something I need at the current moment, my kids needed to know and yeah, it's so hard just to even say I need it. You know it.

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It's not it's not like me to ask for a handout. It's pretty much what I'm trying to say.

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Sandy thank you for sharing your story. Thank you for having me this episode of the indicator was produced by Elena Burnett Courtney dorning and Darien would it was fact-checked by Brittany Cronin special thanks to the team at all things considered. The indicator is edited by Patty Hirsch and is a production of NPR.

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