When she was laid off in mid-March from a job she had held for decades, a hotel employee in Rhode Island felt abandoned by her employer. As she told WBUR, she felt that they did not care that, “I have a family that rely on me. It’s not like that you are only telling me when something happened to me, you’re telling everybody who depend on me.”
Ideally, assistance and support should be widely available to individuals and families in need of short-term assistance due to unemployment, illness, or other life circumstances to provide economic security in an emergency. For the past quarter century, the U.S. has been shifting our safety net from a family support model to one emphasizing “making work pay”. But what happens when work is widely unavailable?
The CARES Act provided a great deal of economic support, but it was short-lived. Emergency cash assistance of $1,200 per adult and $500 per children for low- and middle-income families provided a vital benefit, but only once even as the coronavirus pandemic drags on. Access to unemployment compensation and benefit levels were both increased, but some of these programs have also begun to expire – including the $600 per week Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation that ended at the end of July, more than 3 months ago. Emergency programs should continue until economic conditions improve – not just end on an arbitrary date.
Families continue to need emergency assistance during the coronavirus pandemic and recession, but Build(ing) The Future: Bold Policies for a Gender-Equitable Recovery also proposes longer-term proposals for improving family economic security through raising wages and expanding tax credits working families so that fewer are living paycheck to paycheck with little ability to save.
Those out of work look forward to a time when their former employers call them back to work. As the Rhode Island hotel worker put it, “I have a hope that my workplace will open again and things will come back, if not total normal, close to normal and that’s what keeps me going — the hope.”