#SaveThe600 Why Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation matters, and how you can help.

by WREN Staff on Jul 22, 2020

What is Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) and why is it important?

The coronavirus pandemic and the response by federal, state, and local authorities are fast-moving. We know federal legislation can be especially hard to keep up with at a time like this; that’s why we’re breaking down unemployment benefits and some continued work we must do around ensuring all American workers have what they need to get by, especially those most marginalized. 

In March 2020, the U.S. Congress passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. Although the economic fallout caused by COVID-19 continues to worsen, the $600 weekly federal unemployment insurance payout to impacted workers is set to end on July 25 in most states. While unemployment benefits usually cover just a fraction of a worker’s lost wages, the additional $600 from the federal government, Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC), was designed to fully replace the average worker’s missing paycheck. 

When these benefits cease at the end of this month, millions of Americans will be left worrying about how to make ends meet. Low wages, insufficient access to health insurance and child care, unattainable housing, and transportation, already cause economically precarious positions for Americans. In an Post and Courier op-ed, WREN CEO, Ann Warner, and SC Appleseed Legal Justice Center CEO, Sue Berkowitz, go into detail about what curtailing unemployment insurance will do to these fires still ablaze. 

What will happen without more relief?

COVID cases are increasing rapidly, with a new record number of deaths and infections occurring nearly everyday in South Carolina. This is no time to end unemployment benefits. If the FPUC program isn’t extended and more relief isn’t given to unemployed Americans, 30 million workers and their families will be affected. Without these benefits, more Americans will be more likely to default on car loans and credit card bills and fall behind on their rent; this will likely increase predatory lending and leaning on subprime loans. 

Without the weekly $600 benefit, as many as 30 million unemployed workers will receive an average of about $370/week in unemployment compensation, which replaces only 44% of the average wage. That’s just $9.23 an hour for a full-time worker, not nearly enough to cover basic living costs. Unemployed workers will be pressured back into the labor force putting themselves, and their families, at a higher risk of contracting COVID-19.

The FPUC program is not only helping sustain household economies, but our shared economy. Based on research from the last recession, we know that every dollar paid out in unemployment insurance generates $1.61 in economic activity. That means that one week of one worker’s FPUC is putting $966 back into our communities and local economies. It is a fact that this consumer spending is keeping as many as 2.8 million Americans employed. Without FPUC, the nation’s economic growth will continue to be tightly constrained by insufficient demand for goods and services.

Additionally, without further relief the global pandemic and U.S. economic crisis will continue to have a devastating impact on Black, Latinx, and Indigenous workers due to higher unemployment rates. Unemployed women will also be more negatively impacted by the loss of the FPUC program, given their higher unemployment rates during the pandemic. Women of color are more likely to be the primary or sole breadwinners in households with children under the age of 18. As rent and other bills pile up, failing to support women with cash assistance during this pandemic, ultimately hurts entire families.

What must Congress do?

Congress must continue the supplemental $600/week FPUC as it is a key lifeline for people of color and women who have been segregated into underpaid jobs. These benefits should be extended until the nationwide unemployment crisis is sufficiently under control. The U.S. House of Representatives passed the HEROES Act, a $3.5 trillion relief plan, in May which includes the extension of FPUC benefits. However, the U.S. Senate has not taken the bill since its passage in the House.

What can you do?

The National Employment Law Project (NELP) – along with the Center for Popular Democracy, MomsRising, the Groundwork Collaborative, and the Economic Policy Institute – are calling on Congress to #SaveThe600 by extending the FPUC program. Data shows that a majority of Americans support the extension of the FPUC program.

If you want to help #SaveThe600, consider signing this petition, which has over 1.5 million signatures already. You can also contact your federal representatives and use the hashtags #ExtendUI and #WeAreTheEconomy on social media to express your support for saving the FPUC program.

Make sure to follow us on our social media so you can stay updated as more information becomes available!


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