An unemployed makeup artist with two young children and a disabled husband needs help with food and rent. A hotel manager says her unemployment has deepened her anxiety and caused her insomnia. A dental hygienist, pregnant and with two children, works to buy diapers and milk.
Across the United States, in numerous industries and occupations, millions of people laid off due to the coronavirus pandemic can barely cover the cost of their basic needs now that a weekly $ 600 grant from the federal government has expired.
“My worst nightmare has come true,” said Liz Ness, who was fired from a human resources agency in New Orleans and now fears being evicted from her home next month if she does not receive help from the government. “Summer 2020 could be next year’s horror movie.”
Congressmen on Capitol Hill are struggling to reach an agreement that restores at least part of federal aid. Even if they do, the amount will almost certainly be less than $ 600. And by the time the money starts coming, it may be too late for many people already in trouble.
“Members of Congress have the luxury of coming to an agreement this week and voting the following week and launching it in the weeks that follow,” said Brian Gallagher, CEO of United Way Worldwide, a nonprofit organization working in the fundraising and aid distribution. “Families don’t have that luxury, they run out of money tomorrow.”
Meanwhile, up to 30 million Americans who have lost their jobs or had their incomes cut due to a pandemic that has paralyzed the economy and killed nearly 160,000 people in the country, are trying to survive on unemployment insurance alone, which on average they are less than $ 400 a week.
On Thursday, the federal government said nearly 1.2 million Americans have applied for weekly unemployment insurance. Although that represents a decrease from the previous week, it is also the 20th week in a row in which at least 1 million people apply for aid. Before the coronavirus, the weekly number had never exceeded 700,000 requests.
Food banks and other similar organizations are reporting a large increase in demand for people in need. Charitable groups warn that the situation will worsen when the $ 600 aid program ends and a moratorium on foreclosures expires.