Gianna Cummings has canceled doctor appointments to save money on gas, borrowed money from an aunt and applied for food stamps to help feed her four children, ages 4 weeks to 10 years old.
A substitute teacher from Sumter County, Georgia, Cummings, 25, lost her job early in the coronavirus pandemic. She has applied for unemployment benefits but hasn’t received any money yet. If the unemployment checks don’t show up soon, she’ll likely cancel Christmas.
“It’s sad that so many people need this assistance and it’s so hard to get it,” she said. “It’s been very difficult. It’s rough.”
Cummings joins millions of workers in the U.S. who filed a claim for unemployment insurance benefits and never received a payment or even a reply since the start of the coronavirus pandemic as the virus forced people to stay home, shuttered businesses and sent millions of Americans into unemployment. Nine months into the pandemic, lack of unemployment checks has forced people to move out of their homes, borrow money from friends and family and deplete savings.
The coronavirus pandemic unleashed record levels of joblessness in America. The unemployment rate in April – 14.7% – was the highest it has been since the federal government began collecting the data in 1948, according to a report this month by the Congressional Research Service. Workers of color were hit the hardest: Black Americans registered 16.7% unemployment in April, compared with 14.2% for white workers and 18.9% for Hispanic workers that month, according to the report.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also placed a moratorium on evictions, but that was set to expire Dec. 31, possibly leaving millions of people on the streets.
Congress was expected to pass this week a roughly $900 billion COVID-19 stimulus deal featuring another round of stimulus checks and other much-needed benefits, including a boost to unemployment insurance benefits.
If Congress doesn’t act, federal unemployment benefits are set to expire by the end of December, leaving an estimated 12 million people without any source of income.
None of these factors make it easier for the millions of Americans who applied for unemployment benefits months ago but never received a reply or payment.
The U.S government doesn’t keep clear tallies of workers who don’t receive unemployment benefits or a denial. But the Century Foundation, a progressive think tank that tracks the payments, estimates that 3 million to 7 million people who qualify for unemployment never received a rejection letter or payment. About 50 million people have applied for the benefits since the start of the pandemic.
Reasons for the unpaid benefits include outdated systems, robust protection against fraud and the sheer volume of requests that have overwhelmed state systems, said Andrew Stettner, a senior fellow at the Century Foundation.
Before the pandemic, states processed about 200,000 requests a week…
Go to the news source: COVID-19 unemployed workers still wait for state and federal benefits