(July 31, 2020) Although the CARES Act extra $600 for unemployment claims and the federal moratorium on evictions both expired last weekend, record-high unemployment persists.
The coronavirus pandemic has caused millions of people to be furloughed or laid off.
Debbie Dean-Colley, who was laid off in March from Worcester Youth and Family Counseling Services, didn’t receive her unemployment payments until mid-May. She first applied at the end of March.
Others like Dean-Colley flooded the Maryland Department of Labor website, seeking unemployment assistance. Because the system couldn’t handle the high volume, the department launched the BEACON One-Stop unemployment application for residents to apply online around the clock for all claims and weekly certifications.
When the system launched on April 24, it crashed, still unable to handle thousands of applications. The department apologized for the glitches and has since rolled out numerous improvement strategies.
Dean-Colley said she only started receiving payments because a friend of a friend working for the department kick-started the payments for her.
“Otherwise, I’d honestly still be sitting here waiting,” Dean-Colley said.
Last week, she received back payments for when she applied before the new system launched.
On June 25, the department stated that it had processed 95.6 percent of claims that were received from March 9 to June 20, with 78.5 percent of those claims receiving payments.
However, Dean-Colley said she’s a member of a Facebook unemployment group with some people who still haven’t received payments. As for the extra $600, she said it wasn’t any more money than what she normally made, especially since she couldn’t file both her W-2 and 1099.
“That has kept me afloat and not in foreclosure or car repossession or anything like that,” Dean-Colley said. “I foresee the economy really crashing without the extra $600.”
Without the $600, she thinks she might have to sell her car or relocate with family members. Dean-Colley is constantly job searching.
“There’s nothing, other than a waitress, but nothing that is a secure, full-time job,” Dean-Colley said.
Although some have expressed the belief that the extra $600 was keeping people from seeking employment, Dean-Colley disagrees with that.
“If there was employment out there, I think people would be working,” Dean-Colley said. “I don’t think anybody is sitting on their sofa, watching television and not thinking about their future. To me, I think that’s a slap in the face.”
Dean-Colley said the government should help the unemployed.
“I believe the government should be for the people. Period,” Dean-Colley said.
Nancy Schwendeman, interim executive director of the Ocean City Chamber of Commerce, said that generally, businesses have not seen an increase in employment applications yet.
“This could be due to several factors, one being that the benefit just expired,” Schwendeman said. “In addition, with talks of a possible extension on some level of the additional unemployment benefit, people may be waiting to see what will happen.”
An anonymous woman in Berlin worked as an independent contractor selling insurance when the pandemic hit the U.S. Since then, her business has dried up.
She filed for unemployment at the end of March, but the system was not yet set up for 1099 applications.
“I think it was May 5 that I finally got it and they would only allow me to post for up to April 24, so I missed a whole month of possibilities,” the woman said.
She said the process was draining, but was grateful that a family member helped with groceries and Calvin Taylor froze her mortgage. But now that the extra $600 has expired, she’s nervous, as she used it to pay a variety of bills.
“If I hadn’t have had that, I think it would have been way more stressful,” anonymous said. “It wasn’t like I was living large with that $600, because I made more than that.”
She has expanded the insurance she offers to businesses to raise her commission, but access to businesses is still limited. She’s also planning to see if she can get a paralegal certification.
She knows Ocean City has been searching for employees, such as housekeepers for hotels, but that won’t help her.
“It’s $13 an hour. I can’t afford to do that,” anonymous said. “If I lose the unemployment, even the little after the $600 [expires], I’m still not going to make enough at $13 an hour. It doesn’t cover the bills.”
Like Dean-Colley, she doesn’t believe the extra $600 was a deterrent to work.
“If people were making more with that $600 than what they were making when they worked, then that’s a bad representation of our country and how people get paid,” anonymous said. “Anybody that I have talked to, they want to get back to work.”
She’s looking ahead to the winter, especially since Ocean City is a seasonal town.
“That’s my biggest concern, it’s not getting the job now, but what are going to do in the winter? And if you don’t have that $600 coming in, how are you going to pay for your heat?” anonymous said.
She said that the state has done all it can, and now the federal government needs to contribute more to unemployment, rather than stimulus payments.
“This is definitely illustrating the division of the classes, the people who were your middle class are the ones that are really being hit,” anonymous said. “The lower class unfortunately knows how to do this already.”
The U.S. House and Senate are debating a second round of direct payments and possibly extending unemployment benefits, but there is no indication of when a second economic package will be passed.