Could unemployment benefits be extended after their end on Labor Day?
It is just days before the end of the extra pandemic benefits but it looks like states have no intention of extending them, despite calls from Biden's camp.
Millions of Americans are to have their extra unemployment benefits stripped from them this weekend, ironic considering the celebrations for Labor Day that will coincide with the cuts.
There are currently no rumblings about any extension to the benefits post-Labor Day, but that doesn't mean they are gone for good. The reason they were introduced in the first place was for support during the pandemic and the US is not out of the covid-19 woods just yet.
Why they may not be gone forever
Despite the vaccine rollout being a success so far, the rampant vaccine hesitancy in the US has slowed vaccination rates to a crawl in recent months. With 53.3% of the population fully vaccinated, that still leaves tens of millions of people who are at risk of infection.
Couple this with the spread of the Delta variant, as well as new variants developing in the future, and there is a large risk of serious infection rates. Indeed, the US is experiencing yet another surge in covid-19 cases with a seven-day average of more than 150,000 new cases. The more prevalent covid-19 is in society, and the more people are being hospitalized, the greater risk of business and hospital closures, potentially leading to another round of support from Congress.
Not only this, but high cases and millions of unvaccinated people mean there is a high amount of people who will need hospital treatment. As the country heads toward the winter, where hospitalizations are high anyway, there is a real risk of hospitals being overwhelmed with patients. Unemployment benefits reduce community transmission and overall lead to a safer society in the context of covid-19.
Labor Day marks the end of the expanded welfare state experiment
The pandemic support given to American workers has been some of the most generous in recent years. An extraordinary crisis has been met with extraordinary measures. $300 a week extra for those unemployed is the standout figure, but in reality this is not a lot of money, once necessities and rent is removed. But after a taste of the extra support, the new reality facing American workers next week looks to be a bleak one.
The extra unemployment benefits have been proven to not be a factor in the labor shortage throughout the country. There has been little correlation in the data to show that the states which cut the benefits early had an uptick in job gains. Furthermore, in some states the number of job gains actually decreased. The reason for the end of the support then can't truly be attributed to this and the reason may be more simple.
It's expensive to maintain such a large support package. Republicans have always been against the extra unemployment benefits, but this fact may be the reason why Democrats are only letting out a whimper while America's most vulnerable are under threat.
For now it seems the extra unemployment benefits are over but count on progressives to keep pushing the case for a larger welfare state to protect ordinary Americans.