Even with a second stimulus bill, unemployed Americans still struggle to get by

Posted at 3:45 PM, Dec 22, 2020

It took Congress almost nine months, but they have finally agreed on another stimulus pkg. The deal provides a one-time stimulus check, extends the eviction mortarium another month, and adds an additional $300 supplemental to extended unemployment benefits.

In total, it’s a $900 billion plan that now protects roughly 40 million Americans from potentially being evicted from their homes and prevents 12 million Americans from losing out on unemployment benefits.

“It is a success and a win because that won’t happen,” said Stephanie Freed, “Beyond that, it’s not much of a win.”

Stephanie Freed is among millions of Americans who are unemployed and have already expired out of unemployment benefits. Under the new deal, she will be able to now apply for unemployment again and will be eligible for the additional $300 weekly supplemental. However, even with reinstated and slightly higher benefits, it will still be a struggle to get by.

“The $300 is half of what people needed to survive, and the bigger problem is that it is not retroactive,” said Freed. “There has been five months with no additional benefit, state UI is not a livable wage.”

Freed has created an online organization called ExtendPUA in order to help others who are also struggling with unemployment during the pandemic. There are members of Extend PUA that have been getting as little as $7 a week in unemployment benefits since the $600 federal supplemental dropped off in July.

Grant McDonald is the co-founder of Extend PUA and knows firsthand that state unemployment benefits alone are not enough to survive. Like many, he has had to drain his savings and take on significant debt to just keep him barely afloat.

“Personally, I have not kept up with the number because I have just been trying to keep up with it all,” said McDonald. “I am just trying to pay as much as I can and watch my savings slowly disappear.”

In the latest stimulus package, Congress did agree on a $600 stimulus check that some say could help with debt accumulated.

“I think $600 is what rich people think poor people think is a lot of money, when in reality, that additional $300 plus the $600, one-time, is not going to help anyone pay any of the accumulated debts,” McDonald added.

For Freed, McDonald, and the thousands of unemployed people who have reached out to Extend PUA, the new stimulus deal is something, but nothing close to what they’ve been waiting nearly nine months for.

“We understand there are some wins here but mostly it means that we have to keep fighting,” said Freed.

The Biden administration has called this latest package a “down payment” to the American people, signaling an expectation for yet another more robust stimulus deal. Members of Congress, on both sides of the aisle, have also mentioned a need for another stimulus deal soon. However, similar messaging was heard after the passage of the CARES Act, and then it took nearly nine months to see a significantly smaller relief package.