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Unemployment Benefits Set to Expire for 18,000 Nebraskans

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The COVID-19 pandemic unleashed record levels of unemployment, with 9.5 million Americans filing applications by the end of March, and millions more in the months that followed. (QUeven/Pixzabay)
The COVID-19 pandemic unleashed record levels of unemployment, with 9.5 million Americans filing applications by the end of March, and millions more in the months that followed. (QUeven/Pixzabay)
November 24, 2020

LINCOLN, Neb. -- Unemployment benefits passed by Congress after the onset of COVID-19 are set to expire for more than 18,000 Nebraskans next month, unless Congress passes new stimulus funding. They're among the 12 million Americans who depend on the pandemic-relief programs created by the CARES Act.

Heidi Shierholz, senior economist with the Economic Policy Institute, said Congress' failure to act will hit communities of color the hardest - a group that's also borne the brunt of coronavirus sickness and death.

"Black and Brown workers have seen much more job loss," Shierholz said. "And so, cutting off stimulus actually hurts Black and Brown communities much more than other communities, and will exacerbate existing racial inequalities."

The U.S. House passed legislation that would extend unemployment benefits, but the Senate has so far resisted new stimulus proposals. Some argue they would create a disincentive for workers to find new jobs, and lead to ballooning deficits.

Several other federal pandemic-relief programs, including a moratorium on evictions and deferrals for student loan payments, are also set to expire.

Because of the economic downturn, Shierholz said there aren't enough jobs that pay a living wage. She added the time for government stimulus isn't when the economy is booming. With interest rates at all-time lows, Shierholz said getting money to millions of Americans - money that would be immediately spent on rent, groceries and other essentials - could help jump-start the economy.

"This is exactly the time to go big," she said. "We can borrow extremely cheaply. This is a time where not doing it will actually make us worse off in the long run."

If Congress doesn't extend unemployment benefits, Shierholz predicts millions of Americans will fall into poverty.

"We'll see families having to make decisions between things like paying rent and buying medicine, getting food on the table," she said. "We will likely see a big round of evictions, people facing homelessness."

Eric Galatas, Public News Service - NE