Families struggle with loss of COVID-19 relief money, study finds no evidence benefits discourage job hunting


RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN)- “I think the only word we can use is terrified, to describe how we feel,” said Liz Labunski.

After spending 11 years at her employer as a graphic design artist, she’s now been unemployed since February.

“It hasn’t been great. I’m in serious financial trouble but we can eat and we can pay the rent and we can pay the utilities,” said Labunski.

Labunski’s budget is already tight. The end of a $600 federal unemployment COVID-19 relief payment means more tough decisions.

“What do we do? We literally feel as though we are on, as they say, going off a cliff,” she said.

Her family budget is piece mealed from various resources. It includes her and her daughter’s unemployment checks along with the money her son receives in supplemental security income.

“I’m an artist so I have started hustling my art,” she said.

She said the loss of that money has a trickle effect. It means her daughter can’t contribute to rent or bills. It also means have to be more careful with grocery purchases and pinching pennies further. Labunski said she’s already getting countless calls from debt collectors every day.

Some lawmakers says those extra $600 discouraged people from working.

A May study from the National Bureau for Economic Research found two thirds of Americans made more money from unemployment insurance income than their prior employment. It found in North Carolina, residents were eligible to make a median of 161 percent to 177 percent what they once made.

Read that entire report here.

Source: National Bureau for Economic Research

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) said last week, “We want to continue to help the unemployed, but we want to encourage work. And we’ve learned a very tough lesson that when you pay people not to work, what do you expect? “

An updated study from the Tobin Center for Economic Policy at Yale University found there was no evidence to support that. They reported North Carolinians received a median unemployment payment that was 47 percent to 50 percent of their prior income. After the CARES Act, North Carolinians saw a median unemployment insurance income of 170 percent to 180 percent of their income.

Their research found there was no significant change in unemployment claim increases when the CARE Act went into place.

In fact, they found people getting more in unemployment benefits were no slower to return to work than those who received less. In some cases, the report found people getting larger payments may be quicker to return to the workforce.

Read the findings in full here.

Labunski said finding a job currently feels like a full time job.

“I’m trying to replace my career so we can get back on track. I send out anywhere from 5 to 10 to 15 resumes a day,” she said.

No luck yet but for now, she’s counting on generosity of others and hoping for something good.

“I don’t know what it is. That’s what I go on, that’s what I live on every day.”

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