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Why some workers are making more on unemployment than working

Posted at 12:11 AM, Apr 16, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-16 08:42:48-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- According to the U.S. Department of Labor, more than 150,000 unemployment claims have been filed in Virginia.

Heidi Shierholz, Senior Economist and Director for the Economic Policy Institute, explained the impact that COVID-19 is having on the nations workforce.

"We’re in a situation that is unlike anything we’ve ever gone through before," Shierholz said. "Economic research shows that putting these kind of strict restrictions in now will actually make us better off economically in the long run."

On March 27, Congress signed the CARES Act into law which provides temporary economic relief to millions of people during the pandemic.

Shierholz said the stimulus package expands unemployment benefits and includes additional dollars to help Americans.

"Everyone gets their normal benefits that they would normally be calculated in regular times plus $600," Shierholz said.

That additional $600 means that some people collecting unemployment will be given more money than some essential workers earn.

“So you actually earn more with the unemployment insurance benefits if you’re a lower wage worker than you would in your normal job and that’s absolute and okay thing to have happen right now," Shierholz added.

Shierholz believes Congress should make things more equal, by giving front line workers additional pay.

“If I were going to make a policy change to make things more equal, it would not be to remove the unemployment insurance benefits from low wage workers who are out of work," Shierholz said. "It would instead be to increase the wages of low wage workers who are still going to work and putting themselves at risk every day.”

She believes we’re headed in the right direction, but there is still room to improve.

“There’s still a lot left to do but the package that congress already passed was a really good important first step," Shierholz added.

Sierholz said the unemployment benefits awarded through the stimulus package will continue through July 31st.

For more information on how you can file for unemployment during the pandemic, click here.