Yahoo Finance's Jessica Smith examines the covid-19 era unemployment benefits that expired this week, impacting over 7 million Americans.
JARED BLIKRE: Well, we want to talk about those federal unemployment benefits that expired yesterday. Those were the last ones. The checks are going to be cut this week, so maybe a little bit more spending.
But we want to bring in Yahoo Finance's Jessica Smith right now for all the details. What can you tell us about this, Jess?
JESSICA SMITH: Yeah, Jared, millions of people have now lost their unemployment benefits as those pandemic unemployment programs expired. 7 and 1/2 million people were expected to lose all of their benefits, and many more could lose some of the aid that they were receiving.
The programs that are expiring are the $300 weekly boost and then the unemployment program for gig workers or other workers who aren't traditionally eligible and then the other program that gave unemployed workers an extension of benefits after they had exhausted their state aid.
Now, that weekly boost to benefits has been very controversial over the past, what, 18 months now. Republicans have argued that it kept workers on the sidelines. It prevented them from going out and looking for work.
But as we've seen states end those programs early, there has not been much evidence of that. The White House did make the case that the economic condition in each state is different, and the administration is working with states to help them help their workers. That's why the White House says that they did not push to extend these programs. When I asked Labor Secretary Marty Walsh about this on Friday after the jobs report, he said that he thinks once kids are going back to school, which they have been over the past few weeks, that will make a difference for many of these workers.
But we have heard from progressives and activists who argued that these benefits needed to continue. We heard from Senator Ron Wyden. He's the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee. He wanted to see the benefits gradually drop off based on the state's unemployment rates. He said it didn't have to be this way, and it's clear by the economic conditions on the ground that they shouldn't be cutting off the benefits now.
He went on to say, "As we've seen over the last 18 months, it's much harder for the unemployment system to work in a crisis when it's been neglected and sabotaged when the economy is doing well. We can't fail again to fix it in the wake of the second major economic crisis in 10 years." He went on to say that long-term unemployment reform is going to be a priority in that package that Democrats are trying to pass here in the next few weeks. Guys.
JARED BLIKRE: Yeah, another COVID milestone reached, one affecting millions of Americans. Thank you for that, Jessica Smith.