On Saturday, Governor Phil Murphy, signed Executive Order 200, extending the public health emergency. Likewise, Governor Andrew Cuomo imposed new restrictions, including limitations on indoor and outside dining. Those moves are a stark reminder that as we approach year end, many people would like to forget 2020. But progress on the vaccine front gives us a glimmer of hope that 2021 will be a better year. For the vast majority of us, this cannot come soon enough.
In 2020, blue collar workers in this country have taken the biggest hit from COVID-19. They have had to continue to work on-site, doing their best to social distance while many white collar workers have been able to work remotely. With the rampant spread of coronavirus again, many people who were previously furloughed will remain out of work, will become unemployed again, or will lose their jobs for the first time. Now, however, unless Congress acts quickly to provide a new stimulus package, there is no safety net for those falling to the ranks of the unemployed.
At the end of this year, approximately 12 million Americans will lose their unemployment benefits. More than seven million freelance and gig workers will lose their benefits under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Stimulus Act (the “CARES Act”), and almost five million workers will be dropped from another CARES Act program that provided an additional 13 weeks of jobless aid beyond most states’ typical 26 weeks of unemployment benefits. These losses are on top of the $600 weekly CARES Act federal unemployment insurance benefits that stopped at the end of July.
While Congress will be considering a new stimulus package, another round of stimulus checks and additional funding of business through the Paycheck Protection Program will likely not occur until early 2021. In the meantime, businesses that are still operating are limping along, and big businesses, like those in the airline industry, are laying off thousands of workers.
Many people are expecting “a long cold lonely winter,” to quote the Beatles. However, with vaccines on the horizon, Spring should allow for “smiles returning to [our] faces.” “It seems like years since it’s been here.”