Like any other large city in America, New York City has been deeply affected economically since the beginning of the pandemic which resulted in thousands of unemployed New Yorkers and a high rate of people having difficulties finding a full-time job.
And just this Sunday, the package of pandemic-related federal unemployment benefits, which has helped families survive amidst the pandemic for 17 months, expired.
Around $463 million weekly unemployment assistance for residents of the city is ending. This means that it is looming to upset the city’s economic status, which they are still trying to recover, and cutting the only source of income for some pay-to-rent establishments and affects the consumers in buying groceries.
Although many will continue to receive state benefits, 10% of the city’s population, or around 800, 000 residents, will no longer receive federal aid, The New York Times reported.
The federal unemployment benefits were the only source of income for many New Yorkers who are self-employed and contract employees whose jobs are vital in the city’s economy and vitality. This includes taxi drivers and artists and hairdressers, just a few among many others. These people are also not eligible for regular unemployment benefits.
Travis Curry, 34, a freelance photographer who is doomed to lose all assistance of about $482 in a week said that to stop the aid is ridiculous, unethical, and evil. “If we can’t buy food or go to local businesses because we don’t have money to live in New York, how will New York come back?”
According to federal officials, Americans are ready to go back to work. Republican lawmakers and small business owners criticized the benefits as they believe they discourage people from working during a time where there are job openings.
In the past weeks, President Joe Biden said that states like New York, which has high unemployment rates, could go to leftover federal pandemic aid to expand benefits after his administration opted to not direct Congress to authorize an extension.
According to Governor Kathy Hochul, a Democrat, who signed a new moratorium last week on evictions after the Supreme Court stopped federal protections, said that the state would not be able to afford to continue the benefits on its own and would need the federal government for additional money.
When asked for a comment, a spokesman for Mayor Bill de Blasio did not respond. The expiration of the unemployment benefits also ends a period of extreme federal intervention to sustain the economy since the pandemic began, which claimed 649, 000 lives and leaving millions of laid-off works struggling to get new jobs.
New York City was one of the first major cities in the U.S. to be ravaged by the coronavirus pandemic, destroying the city’s economy, from industries such as tourism, hospitality, to office buildings.
Economists projected that New York City will not recover all pandemic-related job losses until 2024. The end of the $300 federal aid means that those who are still eligible for regular benefits through New York State will also lose half of their weekly assistance.
The jobless programs began in April 2020 and residents of New York received about $53.5 billion in unemployment aid, mostly among workers who were in the service, hospitality, and arts industries. The recipients of the benefits also included people of color.
Erika Tircio, an immigrant from Ecuador who lost her cleaning job in March 2020 has received assistance since then but will be cut down by about $300 per week. According to Tircio, she is expecting that her company will ask her to return to work soon.
“I’m praying to God that they call me back,” Tircio, who speaks Spanish, said through a translator. “There are moments when I’ve waited so long that I feel myself falling into a depression.”
Meanwhile, in states led by Republican governors, officials said that the aid hindered economic growth which resulted in labor shortages. In New York, business leaders have supported the state to end the pandemic-related unemployment benefits because the benefit is hurting small businesses who are struggling to hire works.
Some elected officials in the city think otherwise. They believe that unemployment benefits helped push money directly into the economy.
“People who receive emergency unemployment assistance are going to turn around and spend that money, and that money is helpful to other people who are also struggling to get things back to normal,” said State Senator Brian Kavanagh, a Democrat who represents Lower Manhattan.
The pandemic showed that there is a substantial skills gap in New York City , according to Bill Wilkins, who oversees economic development for the Local Development Corporation of East New York. This resulted in a huge number of unemployed workers who are not eligible for job openings that require a college degree.