Millions lose enhanced unemployment benefits after federal pandemic assistance expires

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BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — It’s the end of the line for people relying on pandemic-related unemployment benefits. President Biden announced in August that there wouldn’t be an extension of the several assistance programs enacted to help people struggling because of the Covid-19 pandemic. Those programs ended on Labor Day.

The pandemic has brought on heaps of trouble for many industries. From supply deficiencies, employee shortages, unusual working conditions, and more, some say these factors keep them from wanting to return to work. Others say the uncertainty in their industry is making them cautious to head back to their pre-pandemic careers.

Greg Robertson is finally back to work at Shea’s Performing Arts. He says right now they are busier than ever, however, many of his co-workers have not returned to the stage because Covid-19 is still threatening their jobs.

“A lot of us were living week to week for a while, none of us had work for a year and a half, myself included,” said Robertson. “I’m a little nervous to not really know if there’s anything for the future for us. I guess we’ll just have to ride it out.”

Programs expiring include the $300 weekly federal assistance program, benefits for freelancers and gig workers, and assistance for those still unemployed after using all New York State benefits.

The programs have received some pushback throughout the pandemic. Some argue it’s the reason for a nationwide employee shortage. Mayor Byron Brown disagrees with that sentiment.

“I think people do want to work. I think people know there are available opportunities,” said Buffalo’s mayor. “Just the other day we had a job fair where over 1,000 people came out looking for employment. “

With the federal assistance now gone, the question remains- will unemployment rates change? In July, the rate in New York State was 7.6%. The latest jobs report released shows the United States added just 235,000 jobs in August.

Brown says the freeze on student loan payments, an extension of the eviction moratorium, and the city’s use of the American Rescue Plan funds should help many in the Western New York area.

Since the Covid-19 pandemic, the Enhanced Federal Unemployment Benefits have delivered nearly $800 Billion in assistance.

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