Surge in Americans seeking unemployment benefits as Covid aid set to expire for millions after Christmas

Rate of Americans filing for unemployment benefits rises for the first time in five weeks

Chris Riotta
New York
Thursday 19 November 2020 15:15

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Another 742,000 Americans filed for unemployment benefits last week as the number of US workers filing jobless claims rose for the first time in over a month, amid a surge of new Covid-19 infections nationwide. 

The news comes as estimates indicate as many as 12 million people across the country could stand to lose unemployment benefits and other crucial aid lawmakers provided in the early months of the Covid-19 outbreak in the US. 

The rate of those seeking unemployment aid amid the pandemic has fallen steadily over the last five weeks after soaring to 6.9 million in March during the onset of the outbreak. Some businesses began to reopen in recent months, but with lockdown orders lifted in many states and the appetite for coronavirus restrictions having waned since the summer, infections appear to be spiking once again.

As state officials warned hospitals were nearing capacity and reports indicated more than 250,000 Americans have died due to the pandemic, businesses slowly began shuttering once again, leaving thousands without work and forced to file for aid. 

Meanwhile, initiatives created in response to the pandemic — like the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation program — were set to expire just after the Christmas holiday.

Millions of Americans may lose coronavirus aid the day after Christmas unless Congress finally acts

Nearly 12 million Americans could soon lose crucial benefits lawmakers provided amid the pandemic, according to new estimates published Wednesday

Congress must pass a funding bill that includes those programs in order to maintain funding and extend them through what some scientists predict will be a dark winter, as the rate of Covid-19 infections continues to rise while the flu season also burdens the nation’s hospital systems. 

Those estimates, published earlier this week by The Century Foundation, could foreshadow a grim financial outlook for the country as it headed into the new year, with negotiations between Congress and the White House having stalled on Capitol Hill.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has urged Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to come back to the negotiating table after talks seemed to drop off in recent weeks, writing in a letter to Senate leader: “For the sake of the country, it is time for Leader McConnell to come to the negotiating table & work with Democrats to deliver relief for suffering Americans.”

Congress has yet to pass any recent comprehensive coronavirus aid after passing its first sweeping legislation in March, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and. Economic Security Act.

The House has passed another major bill called the HEROES Act, which would extend unemployment benefits and other initiatives created in response to the pandemic. That bill has not received a vote on the Senate floor.

The number of Americans currently receiving traditional unemployment aid continued to fall, however, dropping from 6.8 to 6.4 million according to the latest government data.

Elizabeth Pancotti, co-author of the Century Foundation report, suggested benefits would be crucial for Americans in the coming months as the country battled the pandemic throughout the winter.

“We’re still down 10 million jobs since the pandemic began,” Ms Pancotti told the Associated Press. “We’re heading into the winter, we’re seeing additional business closures, consumer demand is already falling....Cutting off benefits seems inhumane to me.”

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