As Congress fails to reach an agreement on a second stimulus check, new unemployment claims grew from 23,063 to 25,012.
For the past six months, Flora M., a hospitality worker from Miami, has been making ends meet by collecting unemployment assistance and dipping into her savings account, which she admits is running dangerously low.
The news that the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic remains severe, as new filings for unemployment assistance in Florida increased for the second time in a month, has not eased her mind at all. Like many Floridians, she reports sleepless nights worrying what will happen if the pandemic, and its effect on the economy, continues unabated.
“The restaurant where I worked closed, and there’s no sign it’ll reopen anytime soon,” said the single Costa Rican mother of two. “I’ve tried everything, even offering to clean houses, but with the fear of COVID, no one wants you inside their home, so jobs have been very, very sporadic.”
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Flora is not alone. New jobless claims climbed from 23,063 to 25,012 the week ending Dec. 5, and have remained at 25,000 for a month. Additionally, more Floridians are relying on the program that adds 13 weeks of additional unemployment benefits. In fact, the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity reported an increase of more than 9,000 people who filed for Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation.
Similarly, pandemic unemployment assistance claims for contract workers not eligible for regular unemployment have increased from 16,742 to 23,400, the Labor Department reported.
Since mid-March, Florida’s Department of Economic Opportunity claims it has allocated more than $19.1 billion in state and federal benefits to more than 2.1 million out-of-work Floridians.
And the situation remains equally dire across the nation. According to the Labor Department in Washington, more than 20.1 million Americans are now receiving jobless benefits, compared to 1.57 million a year ago.
Failure to Reach an Agreement
As lawmakers in Congress try to reach an accord on programs for the unemployed and small businesses, thousands of Floridians, including small business owners, continue to hope for help from the government.
However, as of Tuesday, the latest government proposal does not include one-time stimulus checks such as the ones sent earlier this year to roughly 160 million Americans.
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Biden Steps In
As questions loom on Capitol Hill as to whether the next coronavirus relief package will include second stimulus checks, on Dec. 10, Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo), introduced legislation that would provide a second round of COVID relief stimulus checks.
Hawley said the legislation is modeled on the March CARES Act that provided $1,200 for individuals who earned up to $75,000 and $2,400 for married couples who earned up to $150,000, and provided $500 per dependent.
But there remains opposition within the Republican caucus to another round of stimulus checks.
Last week, President-elect Joe Biden said at a news conference that additional stimulus checks “may still be in play” in relief package negotiations, adding it would be better “if they had the $1,200 [payments to families].”