Over the last week, just under 1 million people filed for ordinary unemployment benefits, plus another half-million under the special pandemic unemployment program for people who don’t ordinarily qualify, a substantial decline from some of the numbers seen since the beginning of the pandemic. At this rate, by mid-September or so, new unemployment claims will be merely as bad as they were during the worst of the Great Recession.
Those unemployment benefits, however, because this country has systematically stripped and sabotaged its safety net, are extremely meager and often nearly impossible to actually get. Hundreds of thousands of private citizens who have lost their jobs are flocking to Reddit for help and advice, as state unemployment bureaucracies are so janky and swamped they often can’t deal with the flood of applications.
In the past week, the r/unemployment subreddit has taken a dark turn with the expiration of the CARES Act’s super-unemployment and the failure of Republicans to even come to an agreement about what they want in the next round of pandemic relief. It’s become a de facto support group for people whose lives are collapsing around them for simple lack of income or jobs, and talk of suicide is common.
One wonders: Is America about to see bread protests, or even riots?
People around the country have been testifying how they are down to their last dollar or flat broke, facing eviction or living on the street, unable to afford vital prescriptions or even food. “I’ve got $18.91 in my bank account this morning. My cupboards are getting low, my dog will have to eat whatever me and my kids eat and my gas light will be back on shortly,” wrote one Redditor recently. “My car payment was due today and I’m still $200 short, 500 counting last month’s. My phone bill is due in a few days. I’m a month behind on the electric bill. I have about $60 to my name, I’m not going to make rent and my [landlords] have already said they will not be giving any allowances,” wrote another. “Well I’ve waited and now my power turns off at the end of today, in a house where my entire family has moved in with me … worst of all I have two toddlers and virtually nowhere to go. ‘Rona and the government have picked off my family one by one and this seems to be the final nail in the coffin,” wrote a third.
And that’s the very tip of the iceberg — indeed, millions of people were left out of even the initial CARES Act rescue, and millions more layoffs are likely to come in the next few months. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities has collected data for the week ending July 21, before super-unemployment expired, and found that 12 percent of households were regularly short of food, 21 percent of renters were behind on their payments, and 28 percent of children were in households with one or the other problem. All that is certainly going to get much, much worse if another rescue isn’t passed.
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Source: The Week