PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Two key federal programs providing unemployment benefits to millions of Americans will expire at the end of the year, leaving an estimated 12 million people without benefits amid a pandemic that has no end in sight.
The Labor Department’s report Thursday showed that applications for jobless aid rose from 711,000 in the previous week. In March, when the pandemic first intensified, the number had soared to 6.9 million. Before then, applications typically hovered about 225,000 a week.
In Oregon, as many as 70,000 people will lose their benefits when the CARES Act expires, according to the Oregon Employment Department. The Pandemic Unemployment Assistance and the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation programs both end the day after Christmas.
The PUA program allowed gig workers and those who are self-employed to get benefits for the first time. The PEUC program provided an additional 13 weeks of benefits for unemployed people who used up their state benefits.
The majority of people relying on the programs simply won’t have many options left once they expire. Some people on PEUC may qualify for state-extended benefits but most won’t, according to the OED.
“For PEUC, some of those people may be able to get extended benefits for a period of time but unfortunately a lot of those people won’t have any safety net left that we’re able to provide,” said OED Acting Director David Gerstenfeld.
Carol Tricoche is among those who will lose their unemployment benefits. She works in the travel and tourism industry and had qualified for PUA.
“When you finally get that check you’re like, okay, finally I can breathe, I can pay these bills off, I can get my rent paid — and then all of a sudden here you are again, waking up in the morning going, okay, what now?” she said.
Even if Congress were to act immediately to keep the PUA and PEUC programs going, Oregon employment officials say they will be tough to implement without some kind of break in coverage.
“What’s next? Where do we go from here? Because once we don’t have the essentials, just the money that they’re giving now is not even enough for the essentials, so if we don’t have that, do we live in the streets? Where do we go from here?” Tricoche told KOIN 6 News.