Capitalism and Economy http://www.fightbacknews.org/department/antiwar en Federal unemployment benefits to end next week in Alaska, Iowa, Mississippi and Missouri http://www.fightbacknews.org/2021/6/14/federal-unemployment-benefits-end-next-week-alaska-iowa-mississippi-and-missouri <p>San José, CA - On Saturday, June 12, four Republican-led states cut off three federal unemployment benefit programs. These were the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation or FPUC which provides a $300 per week supplement to regular benefits, the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, or PUA for self-employed and gig workers, and the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation or PEUC, for the longer-term unemployment who state benefits have run out. This means that 370,000 who have lost work in Alaska, Iowa, Mississippi and Missouri will be losing their benefits starting next week. </p> <p>These cuts will fall the hardest on African Americans, Chicanos and Latinos, and Native Americans who have higher unemployment rates than whites. For example, in Mississippi, one of the four states ending federal benefits now, two-thirds of those collecting unemployment are African American, which is almost twice their percentage of the population.</p> <p>These four states will soon be followed by 21 more Republican-led states which will also cut benefits for these federal programs. This will end benefits for more than 3 million more unemployed. The end of the $300 a week supplement will drop the average replacement in these states from 60 to 90% of their previous income down to 25 to 50%. The purpose is to drive the unemployed to take jobs at low wages that will further increase businesses’ bottom line. Many of these governors or their families own businesses that will benefit from being able to keep wages low.</p> <p>The PUA and the PEUC provide benefits to almost 12 million people, who are more than three-quarters of all the jobless getting unemployment benefits. These two programs, along with the FPUC, will expire on September 6, unless the federal government passes an extension. This will cut an additional 8 million people from their unemployment benefits. </p> <p>These benefits are being cut even as the federal eviction moratorium is ending on June 30. With more than 10 million tenants behind on their rent, the unemployment cut will just add to the number of renters facing eviction. </p> <p>The weekly new claims for unemployment insurance have hit new pandemic lows and are less than 10% of the peak in April of 2020. However, the number of new claims last week are still more than twice the weekly number of claims in February 2020 when the recession began. The total number of people collecting unemployment insurance has declined more slowly, to more than 15 million in the latest numbers from a peak of more than 30 million last May. So, while businesses are laying off fewer workers, the number of jobless workers who need unemployment benefits to survive is still very high, seven times the number when the recession began.</p> <p>Corporate profits are at an all-time high. The monopoly capitalists who own and control the large corporations have seen their wealth soar with new record highs in the stock market. But there are more than 7 million fewer people working than before the recession started in February. Companies are using the recession to reduce their labor costs to boost profits. What workers can actually buy with their wages is down 3%, as inflation is rising faster than paychecks.</p> <p>Mainstream media claims that prices are rising because people are spending. But the economy has become even more dominated by big corporations during the recession; with small businesses folding, big businesses are selling and profiting more. These corporations can raise prices to increase their profits without a lot of competition. One example of this is Campbell Soup, whose sales are falling as people venture to eat out more. What did Campbell Soup do? They raised prices to protect their profits.</p> http://www.fightbacknews.org/2021/6/14/federal-unemployment-benefits-end-next-week-alaska-iowa-mississippi-and-missouri#comments Capitalism and Economy Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation or FPUC or PUA Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Mon, 14 Jun 2021 19:16:17 +0000 Fight Back 9128 at http://www.fightbacknews.org Federal unemployment benefits to end next week in Alaska, Iowa, Mississippi and Missouri http://www.fightbacknews.org/2021/6/14/federal-unemployment-benefits-end-next-week-alaska-iowa-mississippi-and-missouri-0 <p>San José, CA - On Saturday, June 12, four Republican-led states cut off three federal unemployment benefit programs. These were the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation or FPUC which provides a $300 per week supplement to regular benefits, the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, or PUA for self-employed and gig workers, and the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation or PEUC, for the longer-term unemployment who state benefits have run out. This means that 370,000 who have lost work in Alaska, Iowa, Mississippi and Missouri will be losing their benefits starting next week. </p> <p>These cuts will fall the hardest on African Americans, Chicanos and Latinos, and Native Americans who have higher unemployment rates than whites. For example, in Mississippi, one of the four states ending federal benefits now, two-thirds of those collecting unemployment are African American, which is almost twice their percentage of the population.</p> <p>These four states will soon be followed by 21 more Republican-led states which will also cut benefits for these federal programs. This will end benefits for more than 3 million more unemployed. The end of the $300 a week supplement will drop the average replacement in these states from 60 to 90% of their previous income down to 25 to 50%. The purpose is to drive the unemployed to take jobs at low wages that will further increase businesses’ bottom line. Many of these governors or their families own businesses that will benefit from being able to keep wages low.</p> <p>The PUA and the PEUC provide benefits to almost 12 million people, who are more than three-quarters of all the jobless getting unemployment benefits. These two programs, along with the FPUC, will expire on September 6, unless the federal government passes an extension. This will cut an additional 8 million people from their unemployment benefits. </p> <p>These benefits are being cut even as the federal eviction moratorium is ending on June 30. With more than 10 million tenants behind on their rent, the unemployment cut will just add to the number of renters facing eviction. </p> <p>The weekly new claims for unemployment insurance have hit new pandemic lows and are less than 10% of the peak in April of 2020. However, the number of new claims last week are still more than twice the weekly number of claims in February 2020 when the recession began. The total number of people collecting unemployment insurance has declined more slowly, to more than 15 million in the latest numbers from a peak of more than 30 million last May. So, while businesses are laying off fewer workers, the number of jobless workers who need unemployment benefits to survive is still very high, seven times the number when the recession began.</p> <p>Corporate profits are at an all-time high. The monopoly capitalists who own and control the large corporations have seen their wealth soar with new record highs in the stock market. But there are more than 7 million fewer people working than before the recession started in February. Companies are using the recession to reduce their labor costs to boost profits. What workers can actually buy with their wages is down 3%, as inflation is rising faster than paychecks.</p> <p>Mainstream media claims that prices are rising because people are spending. But the economy has become even more dominated by big corporations during the recession; with small businesses folding, big businesses are selling and profiting more. These corporations can raise prices to increase their profits without a lot of competition. One example of this is Campbell Soup, whose sales are falling as people venture to eat out more. What did Campbell Soup do? They raised prices to protect their profits.</p> http://www.fightbacknews.org/2021/6/14/federal-unemployment-benefits-end-next-week-alaska-iowa-mississippi-and-missouri-0#comments Capitalism and Economy Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation or FPUC or PUA Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Mon, 14 Jun 2021 19:16:24 +0000 Fight Back 9129 at http://www.fightbacknews.org Economy on bumpy road, Republicans end benefits http://www.fightbacknews.org/2021/6/6/economy-bumpy-road-republicans-end-benefits <p>San José, CA - On Friday June 4, the U.S. Department of Labor monthly report on the job market for May 2021 showed that 559,000 new jobs were created, bouncing back from the poor showing the month before. But the economy remained down 7.6 million jobs from February 2020, when the recession began. If job creation continues at the same rate as in May, it would still take until summer of 2022 to reach the pre-pandemic level.</p> <p>But this is unlikely, given all the shortages showing up in the economy. Shortages of computer chips have slowed car production. Shortages of lumber are crimping housing construction and driving up prices. </p> <p>One thing that is not rising rapidly are wages, with a gain of 2% over the last year. This is less than half the overall inflation rate for consumers reported in April of 4.2%. This means that the actual purchasing power of workers’ wages are going down on average.</p> <p>Nevertheless, businesses across the country are complaining about a shortage of labor, even as they drag their feet on increasing wages, in an effort to further fatten their bottom line. The big corporations and the richest 1% made out like bandits during the recession, and now they are doing the same. </p> <p>Businesses are showing their control of both political parties, as 25 Republican-led states are ending the $300 a week supplement to unemployment benefits and also the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance or PUA for the self-employed and gig workers. President Joe Biden defended their “right” to end the aid and emphasized that they are temporary programs. </p> <p>But the PUA in particular is needed as a permanent program, as a growing number of businesses like Uber and Lyft convert their workforce to “independent contractors” to save on taxes and benefits. These workers are not covered by traditional unemployment insurance, and the PUA actually is paying benefits to more jobless workers than the regular state unemployment program.</p> <p>Last month, when the job creation number was only about one-quarter of what economists predicted, businesses launched a campaign to blame unemployment benefits. This month, with twice as many jobs created, they are still singing the same tune. What they really want is to reduce unemployment benefits as much as possible to force the jobless to work for lower wages. Another sign of the businesses chasing lower wages is that the unemployment rate for teenagers fell to a historic low in records going back to 1953.</p> <p>The same jobs report also said that the official national unemployment rate fell in May to 5.8%, from 6.1% in April. While most of this improvement came from the unemployed finding jobs, almost one-third came from people leaving the labor force by giving up their search for a job. Over the last three months the unemployment rate has only dropped by 0.2%. At this rate is would take almost three years to get the rate down to the pre-recession level of 3.5% last seen in February 2020. </p> <p>The official unemployment rate understates the economic hardship workers have faced. Counting all the people who have given up looking for working or working, the unemployment rate would be closer to 7.6%, more than twice the level before the recession. The rising tide of job creation, as usual, is very unequal, with Latinos and African Americans having unemployment rates 50 to 100% more than that of whites.</p> <p>Another challenge for jobless workers is that the federal eviction moratorium is ending on June 30. More than 10 million tenants are behind on their rent and could face evictions once this protection is dropped. The federal government is spending billions to try to aid tenants and landlords. But not only is the amount too little; only part of the money has been spent. A handful of states have enacted their own moratoriums but many more will need to do this.</p> http://www.fightbacknews.org/2021/6/6/economy-bumpy-road-republicans-end-benefits#comments People's Struggles Capitalism and Economy economy Indigenous Peoples Masao Suzuki Pandemic Unemployment Benefits (PUA) U.S. Sun, 06 Jun 2021 22:43:25 +0000 Fight Back 9102 at http://www.fightbacknews.org Job market stumbles in April http://www.fightbacknews.org/2021/5/11/job-market-stumbles-april-0 <p>San José, CA - On Friday, May 7, the U.S. Department of Labor reported that businesses added 266,000 workers. This was only one-quarter of the additional 1 million jobs that economists had predicted. This left the economy down more than 8 million jobs from February of 2020, right before the economic crisis started. At the current rate it will take the economy more than two and half years to gain back the lost jobs Women have been harder hit by the recession, and the gap with men widened in April as all of the net new jobs went to men. </p> <p>The weak jobs report unleashed a flood of claims by the Republicans that federal unemployment benefits were keeping people from taking jobs. But last fall they opposed expanding federal aid because they said that the job market was strong and was recovering on its own. Republican-ruled states are already starting to cut back on aid to the unemployed. South Carolina and Montana have blocked the extra $300 per week from the federal government. Both states will also be ending their participation in the federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program, or PUA, in June. The PUA is for self-employed and gig workers.</p> <p>But this doesn’t explain why 400,000 more workers started looking for work last month, and why the unemployment rate went up last month to 6.1% as more people started looking for work. Nor does this claim explain the more than 200,000 jobs cut by businesses last month. In fact, this is the same old austerity program of trying to cut government spending, and pushing the burden of the crisis onto the backs of working people. </p> <p>The unemployed also face a growing threat of evictions, as a federal court overturned the nationwide eviction ban by the federal Centers for Disease Control. Only 16 states out of 50 have their own eviction bans for those hurt by the recession, and all but six of them end in May or June. This will put millions of people in danger of eviction and many will end up joining the growing ranks of homeless. </p> <p>The official federal count of homeless people - of a little more than 500,000 - is a vast undercount based on counting people in the street and shelters. Schools reported about 1.5 million students without their own home. If each unhoused student has a parent sibling not in school, this would be about 3 million homeless, or about 1% of the U.S population.</p> <p>This shows another of the glaring inequalities of life under capitalism: while the average price of homes went up over 9% in 2020, millions of people cannot afford to pay for their own place to live.</p> http://www.fightbacknews.org/2021/5/11/job-market-stumbles-april-0#comments Capitalism and Economy COVID-19 pandemic Unemployment Assistance program U.S. Department of Labor Tue, 11 May 2021 13:41:19 +0000 Fight Back 9025 at http://www.fightbacknews.org Job market stumbles in April http://www.fightbacknews.org/2021/5/11/job-market-stumbles-april <p>San José, CA - On Friday, May 7, the U.S. Department of Labor reported that businesses added 266,000 workers. This was only one-quarter of the additional 1 million jobs that economists had predicted. This left the economy down more than 8 million jobs from February of 2020, right before the economic crisis started. At the current rate it will take the economy more than two and half years to gain back the lost jobs Women have been harder hit by the recession, and the gap with men widened in April as all of the net new jobs went to men. </p> <p>The weak jobs report unleashed a flood of claims by the Republicans that federal unemployment benefits were keeping people from taking jobs. But last fall they opposed expanding federal aid because they said that the job market was strong and was recovering on its own. Republican-ruled states are already starting to cut back on aid to the unemployed. South Carolina and Montana have blocked the extra $300 per week from the federal government. Both states will also be ending their participation in the federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program, or PUA, in June. The PUA is for self-employed and gig workers.</p> <p>But this doesn’t explain why 400,000 more workers started looking for work last month, and why the unemployment rate went up last month to 6.1% as more people started looking for work. Nor does this claim explain the more than 200,000 jobs cut by businesses last month. In fact, this is the same old austerity program of trying to cut government spending, and pushing the burden of the crisis onto the backs of working people. </p> <p>The unemployed also face a growing threat of evictions, as a federal court overturned the nationwide eviction ban by the federal Centers for Disease Control. Only 16 states out of 50 have their own eviction bans for those hurt by the recession, and all but six of them end in May or June. This will put millions of people in danger of eviction and many will end up joining the growing ranks of homeless. </p> <p>The official federal count of homeless people - of a little more than 500,000 - is a vast undercount based on counting people in the street and shelters. Schools reported about 1.5 million students without their own home. If each unhoused student has a parent sibling not in school, this would be about 3 million homeless, or about 1% of the U.S population.</p> <p>This shows another of the glaring inequalities of life under capitalism: while the average price of homes went up over 9% in 2020, millions of people cannot afford to pay for their own place to live.</p> http://www.fightbacknews.org/2021/5/11/job-market-stumbles-april#comments Capitalism and Economy COVID-19 pandemic Unemployment Assistance program U.S. Department of Labor Tue, 11 May 2021 13:40:41 +0000 Fight Back 9024 at http://www.fightbacknews.org May Day 2021: Unite the many to defeat the few! Down with the billionaires! We need socialism! http://www.fightbacknews.org/2021/4/30/may-day-2021-unite-many-defeat-few-down-billionaires-we-need-socialism <p>International Workers Day is celebrated on May 1. Around the world, workers have accomplished many great things over the past year that we can be proud of. The ruling class, made up of monopoly capitalists, have tried their best to keep profits high at the expense of the people during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, we’ve seen time and time again that the people can rise above the obstacles created by the 1% and bring about real change. On May Day 2021, it is important to reflect on the past year. We must also renew our efforts to end the rule of the monopoly capitalists and replace their broken, failed system with a system that benefits not the few but the majority of people – socialism.</p> <p>May Day began as a celebration of the working class and its heroic struggle after Haymarket in Chicago in 1886. Workers at Haymarket fought against terrible working conditions and for an eight-hour workday. The greedy bosses and their servants, the police, tried to brutally repress the workers and their movement. The police attacked, injured and killed striking workers, most of them immigrants, leading up to the Haymarket massacre. Then the state of Illinois held a trial and hung four labor leaders, the Haymarket Martyrs. Still, the spirit of that first May Day lives on and is celebrated by workers around the world each year.</p> <p>In the United States, the monopoly capitalists and their politicians tried to replace the globally celebrated International Workers Day with ‘Labor Day’ in September. It wasn’t until the massive marches for immigrant rights of 2006 that the celebration of May Day became once again widespread in the U.S.</p> <p>Workers around the world continue to struggle in the face of the global COVID-19 pandemic. The ruling class has made it clear over the past year that they value making profits much more than they value the lives of the working class. This is especially true as we see African American, Latino/Chicano, and Native American communities continuing to suffer the worst effects of the pandemic, even as many people begin to have access to vaccinations. Asian Americans are being hit by a wave of racist violence, as both the Trump and Biden administrations have ramped up tensions with China The situation in the U.S. lies in stark contrast to the measures being taken in other countries like Cuba, where the socialist government is actively helping their people against the pandemic.</p> <p>A few stimulus checks over the past 12 months is nowhere near enough financial help for families struggling in the U.S. Teachers continue to struggle with administrators and politicians over safety in our schools. College students are fighting back against administrations that have treated many young adults unfairly. Many people who should have been among the first to receive vaccinations are having to wait because capitalism is a failed system that doesn’t serve our best interests.</p> <p>May Day is a time to plan for the battles to come as we analyze and reflect on the current situation. Justice must be won by any means necessary for George Floyd and all victims of police crimes. We must fight for an end to the cruel treatment of immigrants and refugees at the U.S. border, and we need to shut down all the detention centers where terrible abuses are taking place. We must support sectors of the working class that are organizing for better conditions, including the workers at Amazon in Alabama currently seeing massive repression from the boss and from the state throughout their union election. For each and every cause, we must double down on our organizing efforts and continue fighting for a people’s agenda that puts the needs of the many first.</p> <p>Capitalism is on its last legs, and the weakness of that system shows more and more as time goes on. The attempts of the ruling class become more desperate as each crack in their system brings forth increased resistance to their outdated and rotten way of doing things. This is evident all over the world, as workers continue their fight along many fronts. Over this past year, after the murder of George Floyd, we have witnessed a great rebellion that has drawn millions into motion. This country is at a turning point. History is on the side of the working class and oppressed people all over the world. Only once economic and political power is in the hands of the working class can the people’s needs truly begin to be met. Seize the time – let us renew our efforts to win a better world for all and smash the system that’s holding us back.</p> http://www.fightbacknews.org/2021/4/30/may-day-2021-unite-many-defeat-few-down-billionaires-we-need-socialism#comments People's Struggles Capitalism and Economy Socialism Antiwar Movement Freedom Road Socialist Organization (FRSO) Healthcare Housing Struggles international workers day May Day 2021 Immigrant Rights In-Justice System Labor Oppressed Nationalities Poor People's Movements Student Movement Sat, 01 May 2021 03:06:05 +0000 Fight Back 8996 at http://www.fightbacknews.org Union vote fails amid union-busting campaign by Amazon http://www.fightbacknews.org/2021/4/14/union-vote-fails-amid-union-busting-campaign-amazon <p>On March 30 voting ended for Amazon workers who were hoping to join the Retail, Wholesale, Department Store Union (RWDSU) at the Bessemer Alabama Distribution Center. While the mail-in vote ended on March 30, the vote count took over a week to complete, and included hundreds of challenged ballots, mostly from Amazon challenging the vote. In the end, the union lost the vote by more than a two-to-one margin, with 738 workers voting to unionize and 1798 voting not to.</p> <p>In the weeks leading up to and during the voting period, Amazon pulled out all the stops and engaged in an intense and well-funded union-busting effort. According to the RWDSU, Amazon violated the National Labor Relations Act more than 50 times during the effort to unionize. RWDSU has since filed many charges and is attempting to get a new election, saying the first election was spoiled by the violations. While many of the violations that Amazon committed may be found true by the NLRB, the reality is that elections are very rarely overturned and in most cases the settlements ordered by the NLRB are things like the company being required to hang a notice stating that they broke the law and informing workers of their legal rights going forward, or other similar slap-on-the-wrist level remedies.</p> <p>Some of the companies union-busting tactics included things like lobbying local officials successfully to have the timing on a stoplight shortened in front of the Amazon facility so that union supporters would have less time to talk to workers coming and going from the job. Amazon also got many employees to quit with $1000 bribes in an attempt to get those people to leave the job and not be eligible to vote in the election. The company ran an aggressive campaign of mandatory meetings, texting workers sometimes as much as five times a day, posting fear-mongering literature against unions in the bathrooms, and reportedly threatening employees if they supported the union, including threatening that the facility might close if the union vote went through. </p> <p>While this election turned out to be a loss, organizing in Amazon continues to be seen as a major priority for many in the U.S. labor movement and it is likely that more efforts will be made to form unions in the Amazon’s hundreds of U.S. locations.</p> http://www.fightbacknews.org/2021/4/14/union-vote-fails-amid-union-busting-campaign-amazon#comments People's Struggles Capitalism and Economy Amazon Labor Wed, 14 Apr 2021 16:15:17 +0000 Fight Back 8946 at http://www.fightbacknews.org Michigan Stagehands rally for unemployment benefits and jobs http://www.fightbacknews.org/2021/3/19/michigan-stagehands-rally-unemployment-benefits-and-jobs <p>Lansing, MI - A group of 40 stagehands from across Michigan gathered at the State Capitol building in Lansing, March 17. The IATSE union stagehands are marking one year without work and demanding the extension of unemployment benefits until it is safe to return to their jobs. </p> <p>One of their issues is that Michigan law makers need to restore 26 weeks of unemployment, after it was cut down to 20 weeks when Republican Governor Snyder was in office. The amounts paid for unemployment also need to increase dramatically as they have been frozen for years. </p> <p>Stagehands were forced on unemployment in March 2020, similar to hotel and restaurant employees, gig workers, artists and performers. Many attended “Push for $600” unemployment rallies during the summer and fall. </p> <p>“The pandemic has cost us loved ones and livelihoods. Unemployment checks are the only thing keeping a roof over our heads and food on our plates,” said Jessica Westra, IATSE Local 26 President. </p> <p>She continued, “Unemployment payments boost the economy. People need to pay for food. People need to pay for healthcare. They need to pay their rent, their mortgage, and their taxes. People can’t save for the future if they are barely able to survive the present.”</p> <p>“My union has kept me insured, my union has kept our workplaces safe, my union has lived up to its obligation to protect its membership. We need our legislature to live up to its obligation to protect its citizens,” Westra explained. </p> <p>Members from five or more different IATSE locals around Michigan gathered for speeches covering Michigan film tax credits, the details of the American Rescue Plan like the $1400 checks, and solidarity with Amazon workers forming a union in Alabama. </p> <p>Stagehands make possible mass gatherings, political rallies, culture, songs and performances that express people’s humanity, give joy and excitement, and lift peoples spirits. They are fully behind the CDC guidelines and the organized push for vaccinations against COVID-19 so they can return to work where large crowds gather. </p> <p>Stagehands are also demanding Michigan legislators fund unemployment by continuing employer contributions, instead of using taxpayer money. They want Governor Whitmer to hold the line and not allow Republican kickbacks for employers. Republicans are holding back federal monies to try and force Governor Whitmer to relinquish her powers.</p> http://www.fightbacknews.org/2021/3/19/michigan-stagehands-rally-unemployment-benefits-and-jobs#comments People's Struggles Capitalism and Economy IATSE Labor Fri, 19 Mar 2021 18:45:13 +0000 Fight Back 8888 at http://www.fightbacknews.org Commentary on the ‘American Rescue Plan’ http://www.fightbacknews.org/2021/3/15/commentary-american-rescue-plan <p>San José, CA - This past week, on March 11, Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives, U.S. Senate, and White House passed a $1.9 trillion COVID-19 rescue law without the support of a single Republican in the House or the Senate. The law provides much-needed relief for millions of people whose finances have been wounded by the pandemic. Yet much more needs to be done, especially in the fight against the growing economic inequality.</p> <p>The latest report on unemployment insurance or UI showed that the number of new claims for the week ending March 6 continued to be at high levels. The number of applications for state UI was 712,000, still higher than the pre-recession record of 695,000 set all the way back in the early 1980s. While the number of new claims for regular state unemployment insurance dropped by more than 40,000, the number of new claims for the federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, or PUA, rose by almost the same amount, leaving the total almost unchanged from the week before, at almost 1.2 million claims. </p> <p>The same report showed that the total number of people collecting state UI, the PUA, or other unemployment programs rose again to more than 20 million people for the week ending February 20. While the number of people receiving state UI was virtually unchanged at 4.8 million, the number collecting PUA benefits jumped by more than a million to total almost 8.4 million. The federal Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation, or PEUC, for the long-term unemployed also increased by almost a million to more than 5.4 million. The state Extended Benefits or EB program for the long term unemployed in states with high unemployment rates also increased by a small amount to 1.3 million.</p> <p>Without the American Rescue Plan (ARP), the PUA and PEUC would have stopped new claims as of March 15, and would have ended benefit payments on April 15, cutting off 13.8 million people from their unemployment benefits financial lifeline. The ARP also extended the unemployment insurance from the regular six months to a year and a half: the PUA now pays benefits for 79 weeks, and the PEUC to pay benefits for 53 weeks after the regular state UI, which lasts 26 weeks, runs out. These extended benefits run until September 6.</p> <p>The ARP also extends the unemployment insurance supplement at a lower level of $300 per week until September. This supplement is much needed, as the maximum amounts of state unemployment are often nowhere enough to even pay the rent, much less survive. It also exempts the first $10,200 of UI from federal taxation - providing some relief to those hit by first losing their jobs, and then having their UI benefits taxed by the federal government.</p> <p>With more than half of Americans getting their health insurance from their jobs, the ARP expansion of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) will provide some relief to those who lost their health insurance along with their paycheck. The ARP also adds money to the COBRA program that allows laid-off workers to keep their former health insurance at a lower cost than before. There is also money for paid sick leave, but it does not require businesses to offer paid sick leave. The lack of sick leave helped contribute to the pandemic, as American workers have been forced to develop a culture of coming to work sick in order to avoid loss of pay or worse.</p> <p>While the aid to renters, homeowners and homeless people is a very small part of the ARP (only $37 billion or about 2% of the total), it is a start towards aiding the tens of millions of renters and millions of homeowners who have fallen behind in their rent or mortgage. But, with some 3 million people without their own homes, the ARP aid is nowhere near enough to solve the problem. </p> <p>The ARP also provides more money for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, previously known as Food Stamps. It extends the 15% increase in benefits through September, past the existing cut-off of June. But the ARP does not permanently increase the benefit level, relax the work requirement, or loosen the savings limit that restrict participation and contribute to the high levels of hunger in world’s leading food producer.</p> <p>The ARP also sends money to state and local governments that have fallen into budget deficits with the recession. Other states, such as California, have been lucky not to have developed big deficits. But California still had to borrow more than $18 billion from the federal government to pay for the historic surge in regular state UI benefits. State and local governments have cut more than a million jobs to try to balance their budgets, and the aid will allow them to restore programs and services that were cut.</p> <p>There is also a wide array of money for institutions hit hard by the pandemic from schools to transportation agencies to retirement funds. The ARP also beefs up health care funding, mainly for vaccine distribution and COVID testing and tracking, but also in other areas.</p> <p>COVID-19 also accelerated the increase in economic inequality that has been growing in the United States for the last 40 years. The pandemic led to historic lines at food banks, while the stock market hit record highs. Tens of millions of working people saw their savings and small businesses decimated even as total wealth increased and the wealth of billionaires skyrocketed. The estimated wealth of U.S. billionaires increased 44% to a total of $4.3 trillion, even as tens of millions lost their jobs, their businesses, and have their homes put at risk.</p> <p>The ARP makes some short-term steps towards addressing economic inequality. The most popular one is the $1400 per person checks for about 85% of the people. These will start hitting people’s bank accounts this week. This round of relief checks includes adult dependents such as parents and college students that were left out of the checks under the Trump administration. However, it still does not include undocumented immigrants, as the checks require a Social Security number, while undocumented pay taxes using a Taxpayer Identification Number or TIN. However the legal resident and citizen members of a mixed household with an undocumented are eligible this time around.</p> <p>The United States has the highest poverty rates for children among middle- and high-income countries, with more than one in every seven children living in poor households even before the pandemic began. The U.S. official poverty rate, on which this number is based, is way too low. It was designed in the 1960s based on data from the 1950s, and is centered around the cost of food. But in the last 50 years, rent, childcare, health care and other necessities have risen in price much faster than food, leading to a falling ‘official’ poverty rate even as inequality and homelessness grow.</p> <p>The ARP marks a step in the fight against child poverty by expanding the child tax credit, increasing the Earned Income Tax Credit for the working poor, and increasing the childcare tax credit for working parents. While these actions could cut child poverty by as much as half, these provisions only apply to 2021; but permanent changes are needed.</p> http://www.fightbacknews.org/2021/3/15/commentary-american-rescue-plan#comments People's Struggles Capitalism and Economy American Rescue Plan COVID-19 Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Mon, 15 Mar 2021 18:21:15 +0000 Fight Back 8882 at http://www.fightbacknews.org Number of workers receiving unemployment aid stays high http://www.fightbacknews.org/2021/2/28/number-workers-receiving-unemployment-aid-stays-high <p>San José, CA - The number of people receiving unemployment aid from federal and state governments remained very high in February. Most newspapers and media hailed the decline in the number of new applications for the regular state unemployment insurance and the federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, or PUA, for self-employed and gig workers for last week. However, the latest week reporting the number of people receiving aid for all programs - including UI, PUA, the federal Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation or PEUC, and the state Extended Benefits - showed an increase of 700,000. The national total is nine times what it was before the start of the recession a year ago.</p> <p>The big jump came with almost a million more people collecting the federal PEUC, which is for the jobless who run out of their regular unemployment benefits that only last six months. So even though the number of layoffs seems to be falling, there are more and more long-term unemployed who cannot find new jobs after more than half a year out of work.</p> <p>California is especially hard hit by the crisis in unemployment, with more than 4.25 million people collecting aid, making up about 22% of the total of almost 19 million receiving unemployment aid in the U.S. In contrast, California has only 12% of the country’s total population. </p> <p>Recent job gains with the slacking pandemic may reverse in the near future. The sharp decline in COVID-19 cases since early January has flattened out in the most recent week. While new infections are about 75% lower than the peak in January, they are still as high as the summer peak in infections. There are a number of new variants, some identified first in other countries, but others first found right here in the United States. They are much more contagious and are threatening to cause a fourth surge in infections. The danger of this is growing as state and local governments, under pressure from businesses, are rapidly reopening indoor activities that have a higher risk of infections.</p> <p>Optimism about the future of the U.S. economy has also been seen in the rising stock market which hit new record highs earlier this month. But over the last two days, the market has sunk the most since November.</p> http://www.fightbacknews.org/2021/2/28/number-workers-receiving-unemployment-aid-stays-high#comments Capitalism and Economy Antiwar Movement Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) Sun, 28 Feb 2021 18:58:18 +0000 Fight Back 8834 at http://www.fightbacknews.org