This article is adapted from our Jobs Update newsletter that focuses on the employment during the pandemic. You can sign up here to get it or fill out the form at the bottom of this post.
More than 1.6 million New Yorkers are going to lose their unemployment benefits come Labor Day.
That’s because on Sept. 5, several federally funded programs that had expanded unemployment benefits during the pandemic will expire.
“It is extremely concerning that people will lose the money they are getting to sustain themselves,” said Richard Blum, an attorney with the Legal Aid Society’s Employment Law Unit. “The New York economy still has not recovered. There are whole industries still with high levels of unemployment.”
President Joe Biden has already announced that he doesn’t plan to extend the federal benefits any longer, but he acknowledged that a ton of Americans are still out of work and said that states with high unemployment rates could choose to keep some of the aid going using federal relief funds.
Gov. Kathy Hochul’s office didn’t respond to questions about the prospects of extending benefits here in New York.
Blum from Legal Aid said: “There’s a lot of hope that despite the Delta variant sectors will continue to reopen, but the tourist, hotel, performing arts industries are all at risk, as well as the businesses that depend on those. New York has a very interconnected economy.”
So far, research has shown that ending unemployment benefits didn’t bring jobs back or significantly raise employment levels in states that had already opted out of federal benefit extensions prior to this expiration date.
Who will be impacted by these federal benefits ending and how?
Gig workers and the self-employed
People receiving Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, or PUA, will lose their weekly benefits. This is the program created for workers who don’t fit within the bounds of traditional unemployment insurance, like gig workers and independent contractors. As of Aug. 7, more than 916,000 New Yorkers were claiming PUA benefits each week, and in the week of Aug. 21, nearly 1,200 people filed new claims for the program.
Workers who have been unemployed for more than six months straight
If your unemployment insurance claim has reached or surpassed the originally allotted 26 weeks, your benefits will end. This is because two federal programs called Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation, or PEUC, and Extended Benefits, or EB, will be expiring on Sept. 5. These programs extended the length of time someone could receive unemployment benefits in New York to account for the economic challenges of the pandemic. As of Aug. 7, more than 713,000 people were claiming PEUC benefits, and more than 7,000 people were claiming EB benefits.
Anyone receiving unemployment benefits and getting the extra $300 a week
That weekly boost from the feds will disappear on Sep. 5, too. That means anyone receiving any kind of unemployment benefits will drop back down to their normal payments from the state, which are a maximum $504 a week.
Nicole Quinn, the director of CUCS Connects, a group that helps New Yorkers enroll in public benefits, said: “This is huge. People are going to see an impact immediately from the $300 a week stopping. It will have an acute impact on your bank account.”
Blum from Legal Aid said: “It affects individual people and families, and it takes money out of the economy as a whole. As soon as New York is starting to get a foothold, you’re taking a large amount of money out of the economy. If people can’t buy things, what does that do to all the businesses around them?”
Whose benefits will continue?
Workers receiving regular unemployment insurance, or UI, within the first 26 weeks will keep getting benefits until they hit 26 weeks. This also includes if you were laid off earlier in the pandemic, returned to work for a time, lost work again and have filed a new claim within the past six months.
Could any of this change?
Maybe, but probably not until after the benefits expire. Progressives in the House of Representatives are considering pushing to extend the federal benefits, but that wouldn’t happen right away and that may have a hard time passing through the Senate.
In the meantime, what can you do if your benefits are ending?
You don’t need to do anything about your benefits, which will stop on their own. But in order to receive all of the payments you are entitled to, make sure you certify on the expiration date itself, Sept. 5.
Quinn from CUCS Connects recommended to also keep certifying every week that you are unemployed, even after the benefits expire. She said that this way, if anything changes and the benefits are extended again later on, it will help to have a record of all the weeks you’ve kept certifying.
If you lost work during the pandemic and have fallen behind on rent payments at all, you can apply to New York’s Emergency Rental Assistance Program, or ERAP.
The program pays back all rent arrears for a year and up to three months of future rent for those who qualify. Learn more about how to apply here.
Quinn said you can also apply for other ongoing government benefits, like SNAP for groceries.
What to do if your benefits end but you think they should keep going
If you think the state Department of Labor made a mistake with your claim, you can call its hotline at 888-209-8124, though there may be a long wait time.
You can also contact a legal services provider who can help, or your state representatives who can advocate on your behalf.
You can call Legal Services NYC at 917-661-4500, The Legal Aid Society’s access to benefits hotline at 888-663-6880 or the Center for Urban Community Services at 855-932-2827, and you can find your state representatives’ contact information here.
What else we’re reading
- CNN looked at the anticipated impact of these unemployment benefits disappearing across the country.
- Vox reported on how the expiration of unemployment benefits coincides with the spread of the Delta variant and the school year starting.
- Insider talked with one mom who is preparing to lose her benefits.
- Gothamist reported on how the end of federal unemployment benefits will hit New York’s most vulnerable residents the hardest.
If you have specific questions about working or unemployment in the city during the pandemic or something else you think we should cover, let us know by emailing email@example.com.