COVID-19: Analysis Finds Nearly 1/3 of Owed Jobless Benefits Not Yet Paid

There is a $67 billion gap that Bloomberg news found between the sum of benefits paid out by the Treasury Department and the amount owed to jobless Americans.

President Donald Trump Signs the $2.2 trillion CARES Act assistance package. (White House, Shealah Craighead)

By Jake Johnson
Common Dreams

A Bloomberg analysis released Tuesday estimates that nearly a third of the unemployment benefits owed to jobless Americans have not yet been paid out, a finding critics described as a “scandal” deserving of more media attention as millions of people struggle to afford basic expenses due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

“The Treasury disbursed $146 billion in unemployment benefits in the three months through May,” Bloomberg reported. “But even that historic figure falls short of a total bill that should have reached about $214 billion for the period, according to Bloomberg calculations based on weekly unemployment filings and the average size of those claims.”

That calculation likely understates the total amount of unpaid unemployment benefits, Bloomberg noted, because “it doesn’t include the millions of workers around the country still waiting to have claims processed by overloaded systems, or the retroactive benefits owed to some of the 7.8 million people now claiming under the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program for independent contractors.”

HuffPost reporter Arthur Delaney suggested that at least part of the estimated $67 billion in unpaid benefits may be the result of people “getting cut off according to the Trump administration’s return-to-work policy.”

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More than 40 million Americans have filed for unemployment benefits since mid-March, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. The unprecedented wave of jobless claims in such a short period produced enormous backlogs of unpaid benefits as outdated state and federal systems struggled to cope with the surge in benefit applications.

Heidi Shierholz of the Economic Policy Institute noted in a blog post last week that more than 1-in-5 U.S. workers are currently either receiving unemployment benefits or waiting for approval. Shierholz said “policymakers need to do more” to provide people with financial relief as the economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic continues.

To that end, Shierholz urged Congress to extend the $600 weekly boost in unemployment benefits provided under the CARES Act, which is set to expire on July 31.

“We also must provide more funding to state [unemployment insurance] agencies to hire staff to speed up processing and to make improvements to websites and other administrative infrastructure,” wrote Shierholz.

A Washington Post/ABC News poll released Monday showed that nearly 60 percent of Americans support extending the benefits, but President Donald Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) have both said they support allowing them to expire at the end of next month.

Jake Johnson is a staff writer for Common Dreams. Follow him on Twitter: @johnsonjakep

This article is from Common Dreams.

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2 comments for “COVID-19: Analysis Finds Nearly 1/3 of Owed Jobless Benefits Not Yet Paid

  1. Dave F
    June 6, 2020 at 07:01

    This article resonates with my experience here in Michigan. It is a mess here! I am an independent contractor and complied with our Governor’s executive order to “shelter in place” to slow the spread of the virus so the hospitals would not become overwhelmed. I applied for unemployment and was informed that I would receive $760/wk ($600 from the federal and $160 from the state). After five weeks of not getting any of this money I made the decision to resume working before the state was officially “opened up”. Two of my sons have also applied for unemployment and have not yet received any of the money. Three other independent contractors I talked with have had similar experiences. I know of only two people who are independent contractors who have been receiving money through the unemployment insurance agency. So this anecdotal evidence shows only 25% of the people I know who lost work due to the pandemic have received the relief money promised by the government.

  2. DW Bartoo
    June 5, 2020 at 18:02

    “… more media attention.”

    How much attention will be paid when the evictions start in earnest?

    Or, to inform the many that the jig is up?

    This last $10 trillion+ “bailout” is the one percent divesting themselves of their worthless junk, all of which the Fed is buying (and they are not even required to tell the public what they are buying, what they are paying for it, and who, specifically they are giving all the money to).

    Will the media ever say, “Well, that’s all folks, the 1% just walked off with everything and there is nothing you can do about it. It was the biggest heist in history, completely bipartisan, and you all are screwed. Now, the political class will make some noises, all BS, especially as the erection approaches, but it is all empty rhetoric, and when you ask, ‘What about us?’ the answer will be, ‘Hey, there is nothing left, we gave it all to the 1% and now YOU have a $34 million dollar debt! What are you going to do about it?'”

    Home ownership will nosedive, credit card interest rates will rise to 30%, many children will be hungry and suicides will rise spectacularly.

    That is not the kind of “news” which the corporate-owned media infotainment industry has any interest in sharing.

    Why would they have any desire to tell people the truth?

    That would not be lucrative like Russiagate.

    Who is going to pay some shill thirty grand a day to tell anything even close to the truth?

    Sure, some media outlet reporters have been attacked by the cops and have begun to gingerly declare some “solidarity” with the “peaceful protestors”.

    However, how many big-name pundits and media “experts” really imagine, for even a moment that they are in the same “place”, as hoi paloi, in terms of economic precarity?

    None of that precarity is really anything new unless, of course, those medi-ites have, somehow, missed the last forty-odd years of neoliberal austerity which was the means by with the 1% plundered and pillaged the economy.

    The coming Depression did not happen by accident, it was planned, it was deliberately and cynically carried out, it was, is, and will continue to be, intentional policy.

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