© 2024 Wyoming Public Media
800-729-5897 | 307-766-4240
Wyoming Public Media is a service of the University of Wyoming
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
Transmission & Streaming Disruptions

How Some Are Coping With Expiring Unemployment Benefits


And on this Labor Day, millions of workers across the U.S. are about to lose a critical lifeline. Several federal programs that extended unemployment benefits in response to the pandemic expire today. That means 7 1/2 million people will see their aid cut entirely, while millions more will have their benefits reduced by $300 a week. Now, those benefits have been crucial for out of work people like Kate in Brooklyn, N.Y.

KATE: I'm 45 years old. I've survived so much. I've made it work in so many different countries and so many different cities. I have never felt this close to despair.

CORNISH: She doesn't want us to use her last name because Kate is worried it will affect her immigration status.

KATE: I was one of those people that if things went wrong, I was a couple of paychecks away from going down the drain, as (laughter) the pandemic proved. But I'd never really felt that way because I didn't see a pandemic coming.

CORNISH: But when it did hit, her savings dwindled. So being eligible for extended jobless benefits was a game changer.

KATE: The relief when it came through, the utter relief - I remember that very well.

CORNISH: Anita Perkins, a music teacher in Spokane, Wash., echoes that feeling.

ANITA PERKINS: It was a huge weight off my shoulders. I said, I'm going to be OK for a while.

CORNISH: Now, the benefits have kept her bills up to date, and she's now back at work. But there's a six-week gap between her last unemployment check and her first paycheck, and the bills aren't stopping.

PERKINS: And so there's a month and a half that is going to be difficult to come up with.

CORNISH: David Toms is also an educator in Milwaukee. He says for now, as Delta variant cases put more and more people in the hospital, he's not willing to take the chance on a minimum-wage job that doesn't allow for remote work.

DAVID TOMS: Like, it's not me being lazy. It's just logically speaking, like, I'm going to go below what I was making even as a college student. It just doesn't make sense to me. All that is not worth risking my life, you know?

CORNISH: Lauren Bailey in Silver Spring, Md., had to weigh that risk. Last March, she had to stop driving for Uber when Covid was first reported in the U.S.

LAUREN BAILEY: I already have health issues and a compromised immune system.

CORNISH: And without a remote work option, she relied heavily on the federal benefits.

BAILEY: With unemployment, I was able to pay all of my bills, so I was able to stay afloat.

CORNISH: But Lauren, David, Anita and Kate - well, they all now have to figure out another safety net. Kate is starting to feel like her options have run out, so she's hoping for more empathy from lawmakers.

KATE: It's not enough people in the Senate who know what this feels like. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Audie Cornish
Over two decades of journalism, Audie Cornish has become a recognized and trusted voice on the airwaves as co-host of NPR's flagship news program, All Things Considered.
Ashley Brown is a senior editor for All Things Considered.
Lauren Hodges is an associate producer for All Things Considered. She joined the show in 2018 after seven years in the NPR newsroom as a producer and editor. She doesn't mind that you used her pens, she just likes them a certain way and asks that you put them back the way you found them, thanks. Despite years working on interviews with notable politicians, public figures, and celebrities for NPR, Hodges completely lost her cool when she heard RuPaul's voice and was told to sit quietly in a corner during the rest of the interview. She promises to do better next time.

Enjoying stories like this?

Donate to help keep public radio strong across Wyoming.

Related Content