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What Happens Once Unemployment Benefits End?

OPINION: Experts say ending the benefits will do more harm than good to the economy and the jobless.

By Amy Guethlein

More than 7 million jobless Americans lost their unemployment benefits on Labor Day, which brings hesitancy as COVID-19 still poses a threat. The abrupt ending of these benefits could have a devastating effect on the jobless as well as the economy as a whole. It could change the lives of those who are still struggling to find work amid the pandemic as the new delta-variant adds more pressure.

And yet, Senator Ted Cruz responded on Twitter by saying, "um, get a job?"

If only it were that easy.

The expiration of the benefits sends worries across the country about waves of poverty rippling and people becoming unable to pay for food, gasoline, and bills. Andrew Stettner, a senior fellow at The Century Foundation who has studied unemployment insurance, echoes these anxieties and states,"if past periods have been an indicator, many will be caught in a spiral that will lead to a downward quality of life." Twenty-six states opted to end the extra $300 federal benefit before the cut-off date in waves between June and August. Its governors stated the benefits were discouraging out-of-work Americans from looking for jobs.

However, economists and analysts cite pandemic-related factors, not the enhanced benefits, as the main cause of individuals not returning to the workforce as initially predicted. Factors such as low wages and finding child care play a large role in many remaining unemployed. Economic research during the pandemic found that the expanded benefits in the pandemic unemployment compensation had little effect on an increase in hiring, according to a study done by Yale. This study contradicts critics that insist these benefits would incentivize the unemployed to put off returning to work.

Many economists worry this drop of benefits will make millions financially suffer as well as sabotage the economy. Given the inconsistency of the COVID-19 pandemic, many Americans have family care issues or safety concerns and are afraid of going back to work and contracting the virus. This new variant also has many people wary about