Millions in Limbo As Unemployment Benefits Expire, Congress Has Yet to Act

On Friday, the additional $600 per week in benefits set aside as part of the CARES Act for out-of-work Americans expires

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As of now, more than 30 million Americans are collecting some form of unemployment.

Now, the lifeline helping keep those people afloat through the economic turmoil brought on by the pandemic is about to go away.

On Friday, the additional $600 per week in benefits set aside as part of the CARES Act for out-of-work Americans expires. For many families, the extra cash has been a lifelinecovering food, housing and medicine.

And Congress is still deadlocked on whether to extend the benefit. The Senate left Washington on Thursday for a long weekend, with no action on another round COVID-19 relief.

Now, millions of people are caught in the middle of this political stalemate for the next big COVID-19 bill.

On Monday, Senate republicans unveiled the Health, Economic Assistance, Liability Protection and Schools, or HEALS Act. It includes provisions for another stimulus check, more money for small businesses and liability protections for companies that bring workers back to the office during the pandemic.

The HEALS Act came two months after House Democrats introduced their own relief proposal, the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions, or HEROES Act. It includes provisions for hazard pay for essential workers and housing relief, among other measures not included in the Senate’s bill.

The HEALS Act is worth $1 trillion, but doesn't include the same protections as HEROES Act, which is worth $3.4 trillion. This week, Congress had a difficult time striking a balance between the two bills.

Democrats have tried to vote to extend that $600 unemployment boost through January. It was blocked.

On Thursday, Republicans aimed to drop it down to $200. That was blocked, too.

Some argued the financial boost is encouraging Americans to remain jobless, with many making more money in unemployment benefits than they did when they had a job.

The White House also offered up a one-week extension. But democrats refused a temporary deal.

Congress has a week left to reach an agreement on the deal by Aug. 7 when the current session ends. That's the deadline set by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

This all comes as more than 1.4 million people filed for unemployment benefits for the first time last week. Since the start of the pandemic, more than 52 million jobless claims have been filed in the U.S.

The Texas Tenants Union told NBC 5 that upcoming August rent is also adding to the anxiety for renters right now.

"The HEROES Act and the stand alone bill would provide a yearlong moratorium on eviction and 100 billion in rental assistance. An analysis by the National Low Income Housing Coalition determined that was the amount needed to get people through this," said Sandy Rollins, executive director for the union. "We've very concerned that there may be an explosion in homelessness if the policymakers don't step up to fix the situation."

The union is worried about the end to a federal moratorium on evictions at properties with federally backed-loans, also known as Section 8 housing. Dallas County has postponed nonpayment evictions filed after July 6 but that moratorium ends on August 5.

"We've seen people offer rent as soon as their unemployment benefits came through and the landlord just said, ‘No, I'm going to evict you anyway,'" said Rollins. "We're in an unprecedented situation. This hasn't happened in our lifetimes."

More than 3.5 million Texans have applied for unemployment since March, according to the Texas Workforce Commission. The latest data shows overall unemployment in the state is now topping 11%.

Resources for job-seekers

The TWC is pushing for people to seek out resources on their website, twc.texas.gov.

"Unemployment benefits aren't intended to be a long term replacement for work, so there are jobs available out there. Texas is hiring," said Cisco Gamez with the TWC. "If people are interested, they can check those out, and if they are looking for employment I would also recommend  they reach out to their local workforce solutions office."

Workforce Solutions of North Central Texas claims there are thousands of jobs available in the area. You can start a search through their database by clicking here.

There are also two job fairs upcoming in North Texas.

Workforce Solutions for Tarrant County will be co-hosting the 2020 AllianceTexas Virtual Job Fair on August 12 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Click here for details.

The Dallas ISD Career and Technical Education Department is hosting a job fair for students and alumni ages 16 to 24 on August 11 at the State Fair of Texas Fairgrounds.

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