First, some good news! Tax refunds are coming for those that filed their 2020 taxes before the $10,200 UI tax forgiveness was passed. A massive win. More information here. Unfortunately we don't expect to see that same forgiveness for 2021, (CNBC) but we can certainly lobby for it.
At this point 26 states (25 of them with Republican Governors) have announced they will end federal pandemic unemployment programs early, affecting 4.1 million Americans. Most of these states have already stopped paying benefits. Programs are still set to end in all remaining states on September 6.
Lawsuits against the governors ending the programs have begun. Two of the states fighting back so far have been successful in, at least temporary, reinstatement of programs. The Biden administration said states can rejoin the programs even after they have left them. (CNN). If the state has already ended the benefits, there will be a lapse in the $300 FPUC and PEUC until a new agreement is signed, but PUA will be back paid. States that have ongoing UI lawsuits are:
Indiana: A judge has ordered that benefits should be reinstated until the case is played out in court. (WANE15)
Maryland: Benefits have been reinstated after victories in court and will likely continue until the September 6th expiration due to the lengthy legal process and 30 day required notice of termination. (WBalTV)
Texas: A case has been filed. (Houston Chronicle)
Ohio: A case is set to be heard in court on Friday to reinstate the $300 FPUC, which was the only program cut in Ohio. (The Columbus Dispatch)
Another related lawsuit: The Southern Poverty Law Center in Georgia has filed a class action lawsuit against the Georgia DOL for their poor execution and processing of UI claims including the extreme delays. (More here.)
Governors ending these programs claimed the programs were no longer necessary and ending them would help with "worker shortages" in their states. Now that some states have successfully ended programs early, there is a lot of data-based research circulating proving that the cutoffs are NOT raising employment. Here are just a few of those sources:
Tweet on DOL data from Andrew Stettner, The Century Foundation.
Morgan Stanley findings
And from the chair of the Federal Reserve, Powell, on extra $300 in jobless aid: "We can't really see a difference between states that haven't eliminated that."
There is unfortunately not much movement on program extensions past September 6th. The states ending programs early have mostly killed the political appetite to extend the programs. MSN did recently report that the Delta variant may be a reason to extend the programs. Hopefully we see political appetite built out of that. Activists and other UI government affairs allies and organizations are largely not even discussing the issue and have shifted focus entirely to longterm UI reform (#FixUI).
"We are disappointed to see our allies go quiet in the fight to extend current pandemic UI programs. We absolutely agree longterm reform is needed, but we also must advocate for extending necessary programs NOW. Political appetite for extending programs has to be built by us. ExtendPUA.org will continue to fight for these extensions, but as we all know, our voices are stronger together. The Delta variant of COVID is still causing continued and new layoffs, hesitancy in reopening businesses, and uncertainty about child care and school in the fall. The ending of programs paired with the eviction moratorium expiration and healthcare and student loan pandemic programs ending is going to spell disaster for millions of Americans."
Stephanie Freed, ExtendPUA.org Executive Director
There is still an opportunity.
Congress is working on two primary things at the moment. The bipartisan infrastructure bill and a budget resolution for the rest of the Build Back Better infrastructure priorities to go through a $3.5 trillion reconciliation bill. We need UI priorities to be included in the reconciliation package. NOW is the time to reach out to House and Senate leadership to make sure that happens. Even though the reconciliation package is not likely to pass until October, the language and budget that Congress sets before the August recess will determine what can be included. Currently neither UI extensions nor UI reform is in it.
You can make a difference by reaching out to your legislators (2 Senators and 1 Congressperson). Other targets for ALL workers to contact include: Senate Majority Leader Schumer, Senator Bernie Sanders, Senator Ron Wyden, Senator Mark Warner, Speaker Pelosi, and Representative Richard Neal.
Below is a script. Here are their numbers.
"Hello. My name is (your name) and I am a constituent from (your zip code/city) calling with ExtendPUA.org. Thank you so much for taking my call. (We strongly encourage you to insert a sentence or two about your personal story here.) Thank you so much for passing the American Rescue Plan. It was necessary and important. Unfortunately, the plan still leaves massive holes for Americans who have been unemployed or underemployed throughout this crisis, especially those without children. And now all of the programs are ending much too early. I need the Senator (or Congressperson) to ensure our needs will be met (Democratic Legislators only: in the next reconciliation package.) That bill should include:
PUA, PEUC, and FPUC extended with additional weeks with automatic stabilizers until the crisis is over;
tax cancellation for all UI and PUA payments in 2021;
extension of the eviction moratorium
extension of all pandemic healthcare program
Long term UI reform to fix the broken system that got us here
Continued relief and reform is needed. This crisis is not over for millions of us. Please support this further relief for those of us who suffered job loss through no fault of our own. (Democratic Legislators Only: It's imperative Democrats uphold the workers-first mandate given to them by voters.) Thank you for listening. I really appreciate you getting this message to the Senator (or Congressperson)."
In a meeting with Speaker Pelosi's office today they said what they really need is more messaging out there pushing back on the narrative that federal benefits disincentivize work. So keep telling your story. Keep pushing back. We are in awe of the strength we have seen from this community.
If you need help surviving these difficult times please check out ExtendPUA.org/help. If you need help with a UI claim check our suggestions at ExtendPUA.org/claimhelp. If you received UI in 2021 you may also be eligible for the new healthcare program as of July 1. More info here.
We are consistently active on Twitter so please give us a follow @ExtendPUA to stay updated more regularly.
In Solidarity, Always,
The ExtendPUA.org Team