top of page


Pandemic Relief



Pandemic Relief


Image by Cameron Smith

Findings from the

Pandemic Relief Survey

December 2020

"We created the Pandemic Relief Survey because we wanted to ensure our legislative advocacy efforts accurately represented the needs of those who were looking to our resources the most. Over 1,300 people across the country who have been impacted by the need for further COVID relief were surveyed. While we intended to only use this information internally, the findings made the need for pandemic relief so clear that we felt it needed to be shared. This report continues to push the case for robust and comprehensive relief. It also shows the intense urgency with which it is needed. Feel free to distribute this information, but please do credit us as a source so that more people might take action with our other resources. If you have any questions, our contact information is at the bottom."

Stephanie freed & Grant McDonald

Executive directors,

Image by Cameron Smith


Dec 2020


This data supports what we have been hearing every day for the last 6 months from people bravely sharing their stories of struggle.

The need for robust relief is real and it is desperate.

The Numbers support our stories:

1,300+ workers surveyed.

  • 97% of those workers were unemployed at some point during the pandemic. 95% of them are still unemployed or underemployed. 

  • Of the 32% of those surveyed that consider themselves underemployed, 85.8% of them are earning less than 50% of their previous income.

  • 67.7% of those surveyed are on PEUC or PUA and at risk of losing all benefits on December 26th without government action.

  • 9.9% of those surveyed have not received a single UI payment even though they have applied. 65.4% of those people have been waiting since March or April.

  • 43.9% of those on UI receive less than 25% of previous income. Only 15% of people are receiving more than 50% of their previous income.

  • 91.6% of those surveyed are currently considered long-term unemployed.

Report insights: A defense for retroactivity 

A relief bill is desperately and urgently necessary. That bill needs to include extended weeks for both PUA and PEUC as well as the FPUC $600, retroactive to its expiration. Expiration of benefits should be tied to economic triggers and need, not another arbitrary date. Direct stimulus payments are also necessary to help those who are severely underemployed or otherwise ineligible for unemployment insurance and struggling due to little or no income. We need healthcare relief, rent relief, and funding for state and local governments to continue to employ workers, bolster unemployment systems, and provide much needed social services like food assistance. This crisis is huge and it has been compounded by government inaction and the expiration of the FPUC 4 months ago. People are behind on payments and accruing debt that will impact their lives and the economy for years if we don’t act now.

Image by Cameron Smith


Dec 2020

We surveyed over 1300 workers affected by the pandemic. They span all political parties, age ranges, genders, races, career types, and industries. Responses came from all 50 states, Puerto Rico, and DC.


Unemployed Workers Surveyed.



Age Range

The largest subsection, 34% of affected workers, are between 31-40.

Supporting Children.


All Political Parties represented

The need for relief is not a partisan issue.


Respondents from multiple industries, with the most from:

  • Live Events & Entertainment

  • HospitalityBars & Restaurants

  • Arts & Culture

  • Education

  • Admin

  • Travel

  • Retail

Typical employment Status

Typically Full-Time

W2 Employees




(18% of those freelancers are

mixed income earners)

Image by Cameron Smith


Unemployment, and Underemployment

Dec 2020

UI Status

current employment status

97% of respondents were unemployed or underemployed at some point in this crisis.



95% are still currently unemployed or underemployed.

underemployed = underearning

32% of surveyed workers identify as underemployed. Of underemployed respondents:


Earning less than 50% of their previous income


Earning less than 25% of their previous income


This means that even as people “return to work” and unemployment rates lower, the majority of those people are making less than they are accustomed to and many still cannot afford their lifestyles. In many cases people can't even afford their basic needs. Extremely low or expiring UI payments have forced people back to jobs that don’t support them or their families. Some of these people are still able to collect partial UI and they would benefit from necessary FPUC boosts, but many are no longer eligible for UI at all. We need direct aid payments to these underemployed workers so they can dig their way out of the debt of the last 6 months and still pay for their needs now.  


These underemployment figures also make clear that the lowering unemployment rate is not indicative of recovery, as many workers are classified (often incorrectly) as “re-employed” but unable to afford basic necessities.

Confused on acronyms? Click here.

"I worked as a cook for over 12 years at the same restaurant. I returned to work in June after being furloughed in March, but my scheduled hours have gone from 60-67/week to 20 hours per week spread over 4 days. In NY, this disqualifies me from any partial UI benefits. I am making only ⅓ of my previous wages and have never struggled like I am now."

Submit your story and meet with your Senator here.


New York

Image by Cameron Smith

Unemployment rate is

not an accuratE

measure of recovery.

1 in 4 American adults are either unemployed or making poverty wages.

Source: CNBC

Image by Cameron Smith


Dec 2020


Respondents on PUA.



Respondents on 




Respondents at risk of LOSING ALL BENEFITS

Dec. 26 without gov't action.



7.2% of those surveyed are small business owners and 35.6% are self employed or freelancers. Some of the Senators’ offices we’ve met with support PPP, but not robust UI because they believe PPP is a solution that helps freelancers in addition to small business owners. If that were the case, 42.8% of individuals surveyed “should have” been helped by the PPP/EIDL program, but in reality only 8.8% of individuals benefited from the program directly. And those numbers don’t give us any indication of how long the PPP helped. Some freelancers only took advantage of the EIDL $1,000 grant, uncomfortable taking on a loan. This proves PPP is not a solution for workers’ needs in this pandemic, even those that are self employed. Additional weeks for PUA & PEUC, reinstating the FPUC, and direct payments are the most effective solution.

Confused on acronyms? Click here.


9.9% of those surveyed have not received a single UI payment, even though they have applied. 65.4% of those respondents applied and have been waiting since March or April.



43.9% Of those on uI Receive less than 25% of their previous income.


31.4% Of those on uI Receive less Than $200/wk. 52.5% receive less than $300/wk.


These numbers indicate 50% of individuals and families on UI have been trying to survive for over 4 months on less than 1/4 of what they're used to. Only 15% of people are receiving more than 50% of their previous income. FPUC is necessary to bridge this gap and it needs to be robust. $600 was agreed upon as the difference between the average UI payment and average income. That $600 is what helped millions survive, without it UI isn’t enough for many to afford even the basics.


Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation | Lost Wages Assistance

87.7% of those surveyed received the FPUC $600

before it expired.

 69.7% received the LWA $300.


Upcoming relief must include FPUC that is retroactive to its expiration. FPUC expired July 26th, which means a majority of people have been receiving significantly less than their previous incomes for over 4 months. Consequently, people are behind on rent, have sacrificed healthcare, and are relying on food assistance or going hungry. Reinstating FPUC is not enough; it MUST be retroactive or people will still lose their homes and struggle with debt for years. Some level of FPUC has been in every proposal since July. Workers should not be denied those payments because of legislative inaction.


"I was a beautician by day and a 3rd shift server by night. Once the virus hit I was laid off. On PUA, between both jobs I was only approved for the flat rate of $189. There is no way a family of 4 can live off $189 a week. I received an email saying it will end Dec. 12th. We are barely surviving right now."


"I have worked as an energy healer, seeing clients out of my home, for the last 4 years.  Due to the pandemic the last time I saw a client was mid March. I was diagnosed with COVID and now deal with post-viral cognitive issues. My PUA is $113 a week. How am I supposed to pay my mortgage and my bills on that amount of money?"




"I'm a single mother of one 10 year old boy. My weekly amount is 65 dollars. Just two weeks ago my income fell to just 33 dollars a week because of “overpayment” in 2016. I applied to defer the overpayment to the end of the year, but they said my UI will be expired by Jan so they have to take it out now. $65 was already not enough and now $33 a week - I’m so scared of what will happen next."





Submit your story and meet with your Senator here.

Image by Cameron Smith

Long-term Unemployment

Dec 2020

Long-term Unemployment


91.6% of unemployed respondents qualify as "long term unemployed."

(People who have been unemployed for 27 weeks or longer.)


of unemployed respondents have been unemployed since or before March.


UI+PEUC and PUA were both set to expire at 39 weeks by the CARES Act. If a worker became unemployed March 15, they have now been unemployed for 40 weeks, meaning their benefits have expired. That means 83.9% of unemployed respondents will exhaust their weeks of benefits BEFORE they expire at the end of December. People are already losing all assistance... in the middle of winter, during the holidays. Some of these respondents may be eligible for their states' EB programs, but only 18 states' EB benefits are expected to be "triggered on" as of 12/26. The majority of state EB programs are not in effect due to “lower unemployment rates," but as we've seen, unemployment rates are not an effective measure for the need for relief.

"I have been a Journeyman Live Events worker for over 35 years, working on concerts, Broadway tours, movies, TV shows, cruise ships, and everything in between. In March of 2020, COVID ended my career. I am unemployed and I have been since February 2020.  I am now semi-homeless, living down in Tucson in a spare bedroom. It’s been pretty brutal.

[Due to benefits expiring] I’ve had no income for the past month and a half. I won’t have any income until next year. I am not some kid starting out at my first job; I have a family to provide for. Minimum wage will not cut it and nobody wants to hire a 50 y/o new guy for more than $15 per hour. What am I to do? Hoping to make it, day by day."

Carson Noel.png



Submit your story and meet with your Senator here.

Image by Cameron Smith

Relief & Consequences

of Inaction

Dec 2020

Relief and Consequences

All surveyed were asked what issues they find MOST important in a COVID relief bill. The top four answers were:

"I sincerely wanted to tick everything on that list. Tried to narrow it down, most unsuccessfully."

20's, Kentucky

"I [would like to see] compensation for quitting due to unsafe working environments, and help for people with underlying health issues who feel unsafe returning to work/school."

30's, Alabama

I [would like to see an] improvement to the system of applying for assistance. Too many waiting too long for help. Also, freelancers that receive payment via 1099 AND sometimes standard W2 should not fall between the cracks. They are STILL Freelance/Self-Employed workers.

60's, michigan

"Several states’ DOL are coming back to people and lowering their weekly PUA payments plus charging the difference of several months as over payments. This has to stop. Waive ‘overpayments'."

40's, illinois

Image by Cameron Smith

Half left with nothing

If no relief bill is passed by the end of the year, 55.6% of respondents will have $0 coming into their household.

without action before December 26, respondents will face:


of those surveyed say they ALREADY FACE THESE ISSUES


are in need of rent relief or mortgage assistance.

"I’m a single mom to a teenager. I worked as a booking agent for a musician for 3 years and cleaned houses for 7. I became fully unemployed mid March and the $600 allowed me to keep current on my rent and bills. When FPUC ended in late July, I immediately fell behind on everything. The $178 in PUA I received barely covered food and a couple of bills. I was able to re-enter the work force in late September after landing a remote job with the NYS Department of Labor in unemployment (ironically). It has still been extremely difficult to catch up on back-paying my rent and other bare bones expenses." 



New York

Submit your story and meet with your Senator here.


Beyond enhanced unemployment and direct aid, people are in desperate need of ancillary robust support. In the larger context of America:

  • 10 million are behind on rent or mortgage payments.

  • 12 million have lost health coverage during the pandemic.

  • 40 million are at risk of losing their homes.

  • 50 million are food insecure.

Additional components to an emergency relief bill:

  • Robust rent relief that is NOT based on 2019 income. 

  • Healthcare relief including COBRA subsidies and expanded Medicare.

  • Food assistance.  

Funding for state and local governments is also necessary to:

  • Ensure no more job layoffs in that sector.

  • Bolster unemployment systems. 

  • Provide necessary social services like food assistance.

Untitled design (1).png


Of Those surveyed have taken action with

Click to get involved. is funded out-of-pocket by the unemployed organizers behind it. Your contribution would mean the world to us.

Donate here.






Stephanie freed

Executive director,

Stephanie Freed is the Co-Founder and Executive Director of

She is a freelance Writer and Strategist, as well as a Production Electrician, and Lighting Designer in the entertainment and live events industry. | @StephaniePFreed

McDonald_Headshot (1).jpg

Grant McDonald

Executive director,

Grant McDonald is the Co-Founder and Associate Director of He is also a Video Director and Designer for Broadway, Concert Tours and Live Events. | @McDonaldG |

Untitled design (1).png

About is a grassroots organization advocating for comprehensive pandemic relief. We were founded in July and are completely run by people who are unemployed due to the pandemic. In addition to providing a plethora of resources and tools for people to reach out to the legislators themselves, we have also set up dozens of meetings directly with Senators' offices, making it possible for hundreds of constituents to tell their stories directly. | @ExtendPUA  |

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Instagram

Methodology, Use and Credit

A breakdown of generalized methodologies follows; for precise breakdowns of combined calculations and statistics, please contact us at Respondents were solicited across Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and the list serve to provide a whole picture of those who engage most with's resources and educational materials. While data collected is not anonymous to our organization, it was created so that any identifying individual information can be and has been removed for full anonymity of respondents, except where specific respondents granted permission for individual information to be publicly shared. This report has been distributed directly to legislative contacts of, it's social media accounts, and list-serve. Questions were designed for deeper understanding of the base by Stephanie Freed, Grant McDonald and a team of volunteers. This survey was designed so that all genders, races, ages and industries could be equally and openly represented, contingent on subset desire. Survey data presented was collected from November 25-December 6.

Use and credit: is a volunteer run organization led by Stephanie Freed and Grant McDonald. This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Non-commercial/No-Derivatives 4.0 International License. Non-commercial use is authorized with attribution link to For commercial use, please contact the authors at

Untitled design (1).png
bottom of page