Congress gave out trillions of dollars in federal aid in the form of expanded unemployment benefits to help our crippled economy and people forced out of work by COVID.
Pandemic-related benefits for unemployed workers over the past 18 months include aid to self-employed and gig workers, workers who have been unemployed for more than six months, and a federal $300 weekly supplemental unemployment benefit.
Now, those benefits are going away and it's affecting about 7 million people who relied on them during the start of the pandemic.
Single mother April Stokes, who hasn't worked full-time since last year, says the extended unemployment benefits kept her family afloat, citing affordable child care as a major hurdle.
"I have four job interviews this week! Getting a job has never been the issue,” she explained. “It's what do I do with the kids, who get off of school at four, until 7 o'clock when I get home from work?"
Some economists say ending the federal benefits is good for the economy because it will encourage more people to return to the workforce. Steve Moore, economist and former economic advisor to President Donald Trump, says the unemployment benefits kept some from taking jobs.
“Half of small businesses in America can't get their workers back on the job,” he told CBN News, adding that “enhanced food stamp benefits” and other benefits are making it harder for small and medium-sized businesses to get employees back on the job. These include construction firms, restaurants, and manufacturing firms throughout the country.
Moore points out just how generous the policies have been.
“Families of four with no one working could get benefits of $70,000 to $100,000 and not work a single hour. So yes, these programs are deterring people from going back to work and by the way, that's bad for small businesses."
Davis Professional Services, a janitorial business in Chesapeake, Virginia is one of the many businesses that have been hurt.
"It's hard to compete with free money right now,” said owner Jerry Flug. “It's all hands on deck. Over the past couple weeks, we've jumped in the truck - cleaning carpets, stripping and waxing floors, whatever needed to be done."
According to the Labor Department, there are still 5.7 million fewer jobs than before the pandemic.
Still, for those willing and able to work, some 10 million jobs are open.
"Factory jobs are open, trucking jobs are open, business services jobs are open, and by the way, those are not poor paying jobs,” said Moore. “These are not for the most part minimum wage jobs. Many of them pay 50k, 60k, 70k, 80k a year to start. So it is good news we're finally suspending these extra unemployment benefits."
Meanwhile, the Biden administration has encouraged states to use COVID relief money to keep the unemployment programs going, but none plan to do so.