By Julia Deng | WISH-TV 8 (Indianapolis)
July 25, 2020
INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Indiana families struggling to make ends meet amid the coronavirus pandemic could face new financial hurdles if lawmakers fail to reach an agreement to extend enhanced unemployment benefits.
$600 weekly payments, approved by Congress in March to boost jobless benefits, are set to expire at the end of July.
Republicans proposed reducing the enhanced payments to as low as $100 a week, while Democrats pushed to continue the $600 payments until 2021.
Amid the political gridlock and worsening pandemic, out-of-work Hoosiers unable or unwilling to return to work said they felt “helpless” as both the enhanced payments and Indiana’s eviction moratorium neared their cutoff dates.
“We don’t know what we’re going to do,” said Cynthia Adams, a cafeteria manager at pilotED, an elementary charter school on the city’s south side.
She hasn’t worked since March 20.
The school is scheduled to reopen August 17, but Adams worries administrators will reverse course and opt for virtual learning as COVID-19 cases surge, leaving her jobless again.
The additional $600 each week helped her cover her $1,000 rent and other bills, she said.
“My faith is strong, so I just get up every day and keep going. It’s all you can do,” Adams told News 8.
Chyenne, a former prison guard at Plainfield Correctional Facility, said a household member who received the enhanced benefits kept her family afloat as she struggled to correct an administrative error that hampered her own jobless claim.
She requested to be identified by only her first name due to privacy concerns.
Her Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) benefits ended in June after she applied for a delivery driver job with Domino’s Pizza.
Chyenne completed phone and in-person interviews for the job, but said she withdrew from the application process after learning her son’s day care wouldn’t reopen.
“I was never formally offered a job. I had never even worked a single shift for them,” she said.
For more than eight weeks, Chyenne said she was unable to resolve the issue with Workforce Development staffers and reinstate her unemployment benefits.
“Essentially, that’s the only thing that gets us through,” she said of her household member’s enhanced benefits.
Lawmakers opposed to extending the $600 weekly payments suggested people would be unwilling to find work if they collected more in unemployment benefits than they had earned at their jobs.
Erin Macey, a senior policy analyst at the Indiana Institute for Working Families, refuted that notion and said the payments were “essential” for most jobless claimants.
“If that $600 boost goes away, we estimate that the average benefit would be around $300 a week,” she said. “I think this extended benefit is really essential, not just for those working families, but also to keep our economy afloat.”
Since the week ending March 13, Indiana’s Department of Workforce Development paid out $3.6 billion in unemployment insurance benefits.
Agency officials did not immediately confirm how many Hoosiers were receiving the $600 weekly payments.