Without $600 Weekly Benefit, Unemployed Face Bleak Choices

A federal supplement to jobless pay was a lifeline for millions and for the economy. Its cutoff, even if temporary, may have lasting consequences.Since her recent eviction, Latrish Oseko and her daughter have been staying at a Delaware hotel. She said she was following the debate over emergency relief, wondering, “Is there going to be…

Without $600 Weekly Benefit, Unemployed Face Bleak Choices

A federal supplement to jobless pay was a lifeline for millions and for the economy. Its cutoff, even if temporary, may have lasting consequences.Since her recent eviction, Latrish Oseko and her daughter have been staying at a Delaware hotel. She said she was following the debate over emergency relief, wondering, “Is there going to be hope for me?”Credit…Hannah Yoon for The New York TimesPublished Aug. 8, 2020Updated Aug. 21, 2020When Latrish Oseko lost her job last spring, government aid helped prevent a crisis from becoming a catastrophe.A $1,700 federal stimulus payment meant that when her 26-year-old car broke down, she could replace it. The $600 a week in extra unemployment benefits from the federal government allowed her to pay rent and buy food. When her day care provider closed, she was able to get her 4-year-old daughter a subscription to ABCmouse, an online learning app.But the federal money ran out at the end of July, and politicians in Washington have been unable to agree on how to replace it.So Ms. Oseko, 39, is spending much of her time sitting in the Delaware hotel room where she has lived since her landlord kicked her out at the end of July, applying for jobs on her phone while watching the debate play out on the local news.“I’m glued to it because I want to know, is there going to be hope for me?” she said. “They’re fighting, and I have to watch them fight, but they have a place to sleep at night.”On Saturday, with negotiations in Congress stalled and on the verge of collapse, President Trump signed four directives aimed at providing economic assistance, including financial help to the unemployed. But it was unclear if Mr. Trump had the authority to act on his own on matters requiring federal spending, or how long it would take for money to start flowing if he did.Congress may yet agree on a new emergency spending bill that would include extra unemployment benefits, perhaps including retroactive payments for the period when the program lapsed.But for many of the 30 million Americans relying on unemployment benefits, it could already be too late to prevent lasting financial harm. Without a federal supplement, they will need to get by on regular state unemployment benefits, which often total a few hundred dollars a week or less. For many families, that will not be enough to pay the rent, stave off hunger or avoid mounting debt that will make it harder to climb out of the hole.Households and the broader economy are particularly vulnerable at this moment. Eviction moratoriums are expiring or have expired in much of the country. The Paycheck Protection Program, which helped thousands of small businesses to retain workers, ended Saturday.There are already signs that the economy has slowed down this summer as virus cases have surged in much of the country. On Friday, the Labor Department reported a net gain of 1.8 million jobs in July, a smaller increase than in May or June. Many economists warn that layoffs could begin rising again without more government support. Food banks say they are bracing for a new wave of demand.Before the pandemic, Ms. Oseko and her family were making ends meet, albeit with little margin for error. She earned $15 an hour as a contractor doing data en
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