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Unemployment Numbers Rise Amid Debate Over Extending Enhanced Benefits

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  • Another 2.4 million people filed for unemployment last week, bringing the total count to more than 38 million.
  • This comes as President Trump and GOP leaders said they do not want to extend federal unemployment benefits that give everyone an addition $600 a week and are set to expire in July.
  • Those Republicans say the benefits disincentivize people from going back to work because many are currently getting more money from unemployment insurance than they would at their normal jobs
  • Others argue that the enhanced benefits are an essential part of the broader economic recovery effort because it puts money in people’s pockets and acts as a stimulus.

Unemployment Continues to Rise

Another 2.4 million people filed for unemployment last week, the government reported Thursday, bringing the official total count to more than 38 million in the last nine weeks.

While the newest numbers still support the continued downward trend the U.S. has seen over the last few weeks, that is only one part of a much bigger picture.

Almost 40 million Americans have filed for unemployment since the coronavirus pandemic forced widespread shutdowns. That does not include the estimated millions more that are currently applying for benefits or waiting for their applications to be approved.

Even though more places are reopening and more people are going back to work, those numbers might not be as optimistic as many have hoped.

In fact, continuing claims— which show how many people are still collecting unemployment after their initial application— rose by 2.5 million to a record 25 million. Some believe that is a sign that unemployment is still straggling even as states being to ease restrictions.

While that figure is reported on a two-week lag and thus might not be representative of recent reopenings, it is clear that many Americans are still hurting. 

According to a recent household survey from the Census Bureau, 47% of adults said they or someone in their household have lost employment income since March 13, and nearly 40% “expected that they or someone in their household would lose employment income over the next four weeks.”

Now, more and more economists are warning that many of the job losses meant to be temporary could become permanent. One recent report published by the University of Chicago’s Becker Friedman Institute estimated that 42% of recent layoffs will result in permanent job loss.

Debate Over Extending Enhanced Benefits

Despite these growing concerns, President Donald Trump and other top Republicans have said they want to end the enhanced federal unemployment benefits that were laid out under the stimulus bill.

Normally state governments are the ones that give out unemployment, but under the CARES Act, Congress authorized an additional $600 a week on top of that for all unemployed Americans.

However, those extra benefits are set to expire in July. On Friday, the House passed a $3 trillion stimulus package that would extend those benefits until the end of the year, but Republicans have broadly rejected a number of provisions in that bill.

According to reports, Trump privately expressed his opposition to extending those benefits during a private meeting on Tuesday. 

The next day, Senator Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) reportedly said that the enhanced unemployment benefits would not be in the next stimulus bill, and added that Republicans are “going to have to clean up the Democrats’ crazy policy that is paying people more to remain unemployed than they would earn if they went back to work.”

That pretty much sums up why Republicans want to end the benefits. They believe that if unemployed people are getting more money from unemployment than they would normally, or even if they are just able to get by existing on those benefits, then they will not go back to work.

There has been some anecdotal evidence of companies saying they are having a hard time getting workers to go back to their old jobs. Although, according to reports, some workers say this is because they are concerned about unaddressed safety issues.

But here’s the thing: legally, people who are offered reemployment and turn it down are likely to lose their unemployment benefits.

That, however, puts employers in a tough position because they have to make hard choices about keeping their business afloat and rehiring people who might be better off on unemployment.

This is true for a lot of people. While some studies estimate that about 40% of workers made less at their jobs than they would get from the expanded benefits, others say two-thirds of unemployed workers who are getting those benefits are taking home more than they would from their previous job. 

The Benefits of More Benefits

On the other side of this debate, many argue that giving people more money right now a good thing— not just for everyday people who are hurting, but for the economy as whole.

“Unemployment benefits represent a critical component of the country’s recovery effort, as the weekly payments to out-of-work Americans function as a form of stimulus in their own right,” the Washington Post explained.

Normally, joblessness benefits are supposed to provide around 45% of a person’s wages, but in order to boost the economy, the extra $600 in the CARES Act is intended to be enough to give most people 100% of their lost wages.

“Unemployment insurance in a normal recession is a great stimulus because it has high bang for your buck. People spend it,” Chad Stone, the top economist for Center on Budget and Policy Priorities told the Post. “It’s very valuable to the people receiving it, and it’s beneficial to the economy.”

With rising concerns that more and more of the job losses caused by the pandemic will become permanent, that could be incredibly important for supporting the economy in the long term.

When it comes to unemployment, planning for the distance has proven to be essential in the past.

For example, during the 2008 financial crisis, Congress extended unemployment benefit eligibility up to 99 weeks.

While it was an expensive and controversial move, some experts said the payments were essential for people who were unemployed for way longer than their states would normally give them benefits, which currently is around 26 weeks in most parts of the country.

If more job losses are permanent, some argue extending these federal benefits could be absolutely necessary.

See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (MSNBC) (ABC News)

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Lincoln College to Close for Good After COVID and Ransomware Attack Ruin Finances

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Last year, 1,043 schools in the U.S. were the victim of ransomware attacks, including 26 colleges or universities, according to an analysis by Emsisoft.


One of the Only Historically Black Colleges in the Midwest Goes Down

After 157 years of educating mostly Black students in Illinois, Lincoln College will close its doors for good on Friday.

The college made the announcement last month, citing financial troubles caused by the coronavirus pandemic and a ransomware attack in December.

Enrollment dropped during the pandemic and the administration had to make costly investments in technology and campus safety measures, according to a statement from the school.

A shrinking endowment put additional pressure on the college’s budget.

The ransomware attack, which the college has said originated from Iran, thwarted admissions activities and hindered access to all institutional data. Systems for recruitment, retention, and fundraising were completely inoperable at a time when the administration needed them most.

In March, the college paid the ransom, which it has said amounted to less than $100,000. But according to Lincoln’s statement, subsequent projections showed enrollment shortfalls so significant the college would need a transformational donation or partnership to make it beyond the present semester.

The college put out a request for $50 million in a last-ditch effort to save itself, but no one came forward to provide it.

A GoFundMe aiming to raise $20 million for the college only collected $2,452 as of Tuesday.

Students and Employees Give a Bittersweet Goodbye

“The loss of history, careers, and a community of students and alumni is immense,” David Gerlach, the college’s president, said in a statement.

Lincoln counts nearly 1,000 enrolled students, and those who did not graduate this spring will leave the institution without degrees.

Gerlach has said that 22 colleges have worked with Lincoln to accept the remaining students, including their credits, tuition prices, and residency requirements.

“I was shocked and saddened by that news because of me being a freshman, so now I have to find someplace for me to go,” one student told WMBD News after the closure was announced.

When a group of students confronted Gerlach at his office about the closure, he responded with an emotional speech.

“I have been fighting hard to save this place,” he said. “But resources are resources. We’ve done everything we possibly could.”

On April 30, alumni were invited back to the campus to revisit the highlights of their college years before the institution closed.

On Saturday, the college held its final graduation ceremony, where over 200 students accepted their diplomas and Quentin Brackenridge performed the Lincoln Alma Mater.

Last year, 1,043 schools in the U.S. were the victim of ransomware attacks, including 26 colleges or universities, according to an analysis by Emsisoft.

See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (Herald Review) (CNN)

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U.S. Tops One Million Coronavirus Deaths, WHO Estimates 15 Million Worldwide

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India’s real COVID death toll stands at about 4.7 million, ten times higher than official data, the WHO estimated.


One Million Dead

The United States officially surpassed one million coronavirus deaths Wednesday, 26 months after the first death was reported in late February of 2020.

Experts believe that figure is likely an undercount, since there are around 200,000 excess deaths, though some of those may not be COVID-related.

The figure is the equivalent of the population of San Jose, the tenth-largest city in the U.S., vanishing in just over two years. To put the magnitude in visual perspective, NECN published a graphic illustrating what one million deaths looks like.

At the beginning of the pandemic, the White House predicted between 100,000 and 240,000 Americans would die from the coronavirus in a best-case scenario.

By February 2021, over half a million Americans had died of COVID.

The coronavirus has become the third leading cause of death in the U.S. behind heart disease and cancer.

The pandemic’s effects go beyond its death toll. Around a quarter of a million children have lost a caregiver to the virus, including about 200,000 who lost one or both parents. Every COVID-related death leaves an estimated nine people grieving.

The virus has hit certain industries harder than others, with food and agriculture, warehouse operations and manufacturing, and transportation and construction seeing especially high death rates.

People’s mental health has also been affected, with a study in January of five Western countries including the U.S. finding that 13% of people reported symptoms of PTSD attributable to actual or potential contact with the virus.

Fifteen Million Dead

On Thursday, the World Health Organization estimated that nearly 15 million people have died from the pandemic worldwide, a dramatic revision from the 5.4 million previously reported in official statistics.

Between January 2020 and the end of last year, the WHO estimated that between 13.3 million and 16.6 million people died either due to the coronavirus directly or because of factors somehow attributed to the pandemic’s impact on health systems, such as cancer patients who were unable to seek treatment when hospitals were full of COVID patients.

Based on that range, scientists arrived at an approximate total of 14.9 million.

The new estimate shows a 13% increase in deaths than is usually expected for a two-year period.

“This may seem like just a bean-counting exercise, but having these WHO numbers is so critical to understanding how we should combat future pandemics and continue to respond to this one,” Dr. Albert Ko, an infectious diseases specialist at the Yale School of Public Health who was not linked to the WHO research, told the Associated Press.

Most of the deaths occurred in Southeast Asia, Europe, and the Americas.

According to the WHO, India counts the most deaths by far with 4.7 million, ten times its official number.

See what others are saying: (NBC) (U.S. News and World Report) (Scientific American)

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Official Says Missing Alabama Convict and Corrections Officer Had a “Special Relationship”

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Authorities have also said they now believe the officer willfully helped the inmate escape.


New Information on Missing Inmate & Officer

Authorities in Alabama revealed Tuesday that Assistant Director of Corrections for Lauderdale County Vicky White, who is accused of helping a murder suspect Casey Cole White escape from jail, had a “special relationship” with the inmate.

“Investigators received information from inmates at the Lauderdale County Detention Center over the weekend that there was a special relationship between Director White and inmate Casey White,” Lauderdale County Sheriff Rick Singleton said in a statement. “That relationship has now been confirmed through our investigation by independent sources and means.”

Officials have previously said that the two are not related, despite their shared surname.

Singleton elaborated on the nature of the relationship while speaking to CNN later on Tuesday. He said it took place “outside of her normal work hours” and added that although it did not include “physical contact,” he still characterized it as “a relationship of a different nature.”

“We were told Casey White got special privileges and was treated differently while in the facility than the other inmates,” Singleton said.

Also on Tuesday, the Marshals Service issued a statement confirming that authorities believe Officer White had helped Mr. White escape. The authorities described her as a “wanted fugitive” and offered a $5,000 reward for any information on her whereabouts. Earlier this week, the Marshals Service also offered a $10,000 reward for any information that could lead to Mr. White’s capture.

Singleton echoed the belief that Officer White’s actions were intentional while speaking to Good Morning America Wednesday.

“I think all of our employees and myself included were really hoping that she did not participate in this willingly. But all indications are that she absolutely did,” he said. “We’re very disappointed in that because we had the utmost trust in her as an employee and as an assistant director of corrections.”

Mysterious Escape

Vicky White and Casey White were last seen leaving the Lauderdale County jail just after 9:30 a.m. Friday. The officer told other employees that she was taking the inmate to a mental health evaluation at a courthouse just down the road, and that she would be going to a medical appointment after because she was not feeling well.

Officials later said her actions violated an official policy that required two sworn deputies to transport people with murder charges. In 2020, Mr. White was charged with two counts of capital murder in connection to a fatal stabbing he confessed to and was awaiting his trial in Lauderdale County.

Mr. White was also serving time for what officials said was a “crime spree” in 2015 which included home invasion, carjacking, and a police chase. He had also previously tried to escape from jail, police said.

It wasn’t until 3:30 p.m. on Friday that a jail employee reported to higher-ups that he was not able to reach Officer White on her phone and that Mr. White had never been returned to his cell.

During a press conference that same night, Singleton told reporters that there had never even been a scheduled mental health evaluation. At another briefing Monday, he announced that an arrest warrant had been issued for Vicky on a charge of “permitting or facilitating an escape in the first degree.”

At the time, Singleton said it was unclear “whether she did that willingly or was coerced or threatened” but added, “we know for sure she did participate.” 

See what others are saying: (CNN) (ABC News) (NPR)

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