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As $600 Benefit Ends, What Will Happen To Nevada's Unemployed?

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Associated Press

Newly unemployed flood the unemployment office in the early days of the pandemic.

This was the last week Nevadans will get an extra $600 per week in unemployment benefits from the federal government.

A new funding bill being crafted by Senate Republicans and President Donald Trump is reported, so far, to include none of that benefit.

So what is to become of Nevada, which is also reported to be the hardest hit by unemployment, where so many furloughed workers rely on that $600 to makes ends meet?

Maurice Emsellem is the Fair Chance program director for the National Employment Law Project. He said the benefit runs out Saturday and that will put a lot of pressure on already struggling families.

“It is a very troubling situation for literally over 30 million workers who are collecting unemployment benefits,” he said.

According to the National Employment Law Project's website, the average unemployment benefit in Nevada is $367 a week but the weekly working wage is more than $900 a week.

Without that extra $600, Emsellem said the impact on the economy will be significant. He said most economists agree that extra funding is keeping the economy afloat right now.

“This is really the worst time possible time to pull the plug on benefits when the virus is still spreading and more employers are now shifting to permanently laying off their workers rather than the prior situation where many folks were furloughed,” he said.

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He said the best estimates show the extra unemployment benefit created $900 billion in economic activity and consumer spending. In Nevada, if the benefit were to be extended for another year, the state's gross domestic product would see a 7.5 percent boost.

“I think that has a lot to do with how dependent the Nevada economy is tourism and hospitality, which is dependent on consumer spending,” he said.

While a deal to extend the benefits was not reached before Congress left for the July recess, Emsellem does not believe the benefit is completely dead yet.

“Voices are being heard loud and clear in Washington,” he said.

Emsellem said lawmakers are facing increasing pressure from unemployed people who are close to running off a cliff on Saturday. He said there are other ideas out there to help but he believes extending the $600 benefit should be the focus.

"There is talk of an additional stimulus check. I think there is some possibility of that as well but that's just a one-time infusion of cash," Emsellem said, "It's not a whole lot of money. It's not enough to keep people going for the extended period of the recession that we are now experiencing," he said.  

Rep. Susie Lee, D-NV., said she is hearing from her constituents about how important that extra money is for surviving the economic impact of the virus.

She said she and other Democrats would like to see those benefits extended and she agrees that pressure from voters will make the difference when lawmakers return home.

"Ultimately, they're going to go home and face people and face constituents, much like those in Nevada, and they're going to have to answer for why they didn't extend this," she said.

Lee said she and others are "working their tails off" so they don't go home without a bill, but she is concerned because she doesn't think that the White House and GOP leadership in the Senate are on the same page about what they want in the next relief bill.

"This is critical," she said, "At the end of this month for this to run out and families left without those resources is really going to be devastating."

Lee pointed out that the Heros Act, which the House passed in May, would have provided money for extended coronavirus testing, direct payments to families, and help for housing payments for renters and homeowners facing eviction.

She said the bill was $3 trillion in aid, but the Republican-controlled Senate is proposing $1 trillion. She is not sure how the two sides will be able to bridge that gap.

Those opposed to extending aid say they are worried about the country's ballooning deficit. Lee said she is concerned about what will happen to the country if the aid isn't extended.

"I view this as CPR for the economy," she said, "Looking at the devastation that would happen without any additional assistance, I think it is a pretty clear choice that we have to do this."

Guests

Rep. Susie Lee, (D)-NV, 3rd District; Maurice Emsellem, Fair Chance Program DirectorNational Employment Law Project

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