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American Workers Get a 4-Month Safety Net; Wall Street Gets a 4 to 5-Year Bailout

Courtesy of Pam Martens

The stimulus bill passed by Congress and signed into law by President Trump in March, (the CARES Act), increases the miserly amount most states provide in unemployment benefits (an average of $378 weekly) by an additional $600 per week. But that extra $600 only lasts until July 31 — a period of four months. Millions of small businesses, such as restaurants and retail shops, will shut down permanently as a result of this business disruption, meaning that workers in places like Florida, the third most populous state in the U.S., will be back to their preposterously low weekly unemployment allotment of $275 per week in just four months.

Let that sink in for a moment. A worker in Florida, where Republican Governor Ron DeSantis is in charge, is expected to live on $275 a week or $1100 per month, or the annualized amount of $13,200 per year. That $275 a week hasn’t increased in more than two decades, despite the cost of food and housing soaring over that period in Florida. And among the 50 states, Florida ranks dead last in terms of how long its Scrooge-esque unemployment benefit lasts: just 12 weeks versus 26 weeks for most other states.

Other states with Dickensian unemployment benefits include Mississippi at $235 weekly; Arizona at $240; Louisiana at $247; and Alabama at $275.

The CARES Act will give workers an additional 13 weeks of unemployment benefits, on top of the typical 26 weeks – but only at the rate their state is paying – and those additional weeks will end on December 31 of this year.

In numerous states, newly unemployed workers have been unable to contact their dysfunctional unemployment office. The Tampa Bay Times published stories from laid-off workers attempting, in vain, to file for unemployment benefits in Florida. One worker called it “some sort of sick nightmare.”

In Ohio, workers hoping to get that extra $600 per week will have to wait for the state to hire a vendor to build a computer system to process those claims, according to a report yesterday by the Columbus Dispatch. The newspaper also reported that Ohio has received 696,519 claims for unemployment benefits in the past three weeks, which was double the amount it received for the full year of 2019. Thus far, Ohio has only been able to process payments for 195,000 people.

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