NORFOLK, Va. — Starting this week, workers out of a job will receive significantly less money in unemployment benefits.
A federal program giving unemployed workers an extra $600 per week in unemployment benefits expired on July 25, and Congress has yet to pass an extension or modify the benefit amount.
The Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation program was the biggest boost to unemployment assistance nationwide, what unemployed workers called a saving grace.
“Majorly important, we would barely be making it at all if it was just regular unemployment benefits," said unemployed sawmill worker Dylan Curtis.
Senate Republicans have proposed extending but cutting the FPUC to $200 a week, at least until October. Curtis said that cut would be damaging.
“It’s really going to hurt. People aren’t going pay the bills, we’re going to see that mass eviction coming," he said. "So if they lower that to $200 a lot of people are going to be hurting.”
A worker who loses their job today would earn thousands of dollars less in unemployment benefits than a worker who lost their job in April.
In Virginia, you can earn between $60 and $378 in state unemployment benefits each week. So, the $600/week FPUC represented a major increase in assistance, providing workers with thousands each month.
“Being able to pay my rent, my electricity, my water," Curtis said. "Being able to eat, being able to keep our house.”
Curtis said the $600 benefit needs to be extended, especially amid layoffs associated with a coronavirus resurgence.
“I think it’s a big punch in the gut to all these hardworking people who for no fault of their own were laid off because of this coronavirus," he said. "Congress needs to do something about it."