With Republicans cruelly allowing federal unemployment insurance to run out, Americans will feel terrible burden

WASHINGTON, D.C. – With Senate Republicans letting federal unemployment insurance run out for millions of Americans during a pandemic, U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell, Jr. (D-NJ-09), New Jersey’s only member of the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee, today released a slate of stories from North Jersey residents in the Ninth District describing the impact of Republicans’ callous inaction. This follows a Ways and Means Worker and Family Support Subcommittee listening session on Unemployment Insurance.

“I hear every day from our constituents whose very lives depend on the $600 unemployment insurance benefits passed by the House,” said Rep. Pascrell. “Their backgrounds are diverse, their stories are compelling, and their needs are heart-wrenching. Senate Republicans have refused for 77 days to enact the Heroes Act stimulus aid the House passed and are now going on vacation and letting unemployment insurance run dry. Republicans led by Mitch McConnell have done nothing while millions of Americans suffer. I want to share the stories of my constituents who are just some of the people devastated by Republicans’ cruel dereliction.”

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Unemployment stories from New Jersey’s Ninth Congressional District

“My experience shows the $600 unemployment benefit plus up has been critically important because without it my rent is 50% of my basic unemployment income, before groceries, prescriptions and utilities. I am single, living alone, 65 years old and have underlying health conditions that put me in the high risk and most vulnerable population. My job was eliminated and I was laid off so I have no employment to go back to. I will likely be forced into early retirement as a result.”

-Janette from Clifton 

“I have a successful career as a Stage Manager on Broadway and although the work comes and goes I have consistently earned a good living paying high taxes in NJ and New York City. My husband also works in the entertainment industry and by mid-March we were both at home and unemployed with no income other than Unemployment Insurance. We have both used UI for shorter periods of time in the past and we have been able to supplement the income with savings. Now we are staring down probably a year of unemployment through no fault of our own and frankly, our situation will be really tough without additional and extended unemployment benefits in the long term. Our industry will be the last to return and it will be a slow recovery when it does.”

-Lucy from Lyndhurst

“The additional $600 per week benefit has been a tremendous help. Like most people, I was furloughed and then laid-off, with no expected return date. I work in a corporate office in the retail industry directly related to in-store shopping at malls and strip centers. With the lack of consumer spending, my company can’t ship product to the retailers and receive no revenue. Under this scenario, they can’t pay employees to return to work. So as Congress continues to debate the next benefit, the republicans believe the current $600 benefit discourages people from returning to work. This is nonsense. I would guess most people want to work and contribute to society.”

-Mike from Wood-Ridge

“I currently reside in a home I own in Wood-Ridge, Bergen County with my son; I am a 41 year old single mom. I have never collected unemployment in my entire professional career. I had worked at my previous company for 18 years working my way up to Executive Vice President. Due to a revamp business strategy I was laid off, right before Covid-19 so the timing couldn’t have been worse. Even with the $600 weekly addition my income is only 1/3 of what it was so I am extremely eager to find a job. I have applied to quite literally hundreds of jobs, hearing back from only a handful and getting actual interviews with about 12 companies. While I have a savings account it is not nearly enough to carry me through what could be the second wave. I am extremely stressed and frustrated.”

-Dana from Wood-Ridge

“I lost my job at the beginning of this whole schlemazel. As a single parent to a child with a disability, the extra $600 in unemployment saved us. Unemployment on its own was a fraction of my already low salary from the nonprofit job I had. I had already been living paycheck to paycheck while looking for a new position when I lost it. The bonus $600 per week enabled me to keep paying my bills, and it helped ease the fear of staying unemployed when all the jobs in my sector disappeared. As you know, nonprofit is highly vulnerable to begin with, much less when funding for existing grants dries up or is withdrawn during fiscal crises. I felt like my government was standing up for me and other American citizens, and that they had our backs in this unprecedented and terrifying time.

During the lockdown, besides being head of my household, I took on the extra roles of teacher and therapist, helping my child learn remotely and attend his various therapies remotely (not an easy time, let me tell you), and then spending the rest of each day job-searching online. So far, I have applied to 38 jobs, 35 of which were cancelled with the lockdown. Of the 3 interviews I managed to snag in all that time, the jobs paid far lower than my previous salary. Per my budget, I actually would have lost money working any of those jobs, and probably would have had to find more work just to make ends meet!”

-Jessica from Englewood

“Retaining the federal $600 unemployment support remains a critical item given the poor employment market for families to survive particularly in a high-cost state such as New Jersey. My wife and I are both on Social Security and I had recently lost a well-paying job due to Covid this past May 1. In a couple of months without the continuing federal support we have been receiving, we will be forced to sell our home and leave the state. Any cut to that Unemployment benefit will only speed up the timeline.”

-Robert from Ridgefield Park

“I can't tell you how desperately some form of relief money is needed. I don't think the general public even knows, servers make $3.10 an hour. We are not working any regular hours and I collect partial UI, no indoor dining, serving people outside with minimal tables under tents, in downpours, and record heat waves. Not even mentioning how unsafe we feel doing so. Not many people come out in those conditions. When and if they do, they DO NOT TIP WELL. Rents are well over $1,000 per month, not to mention utilities, bills, and God forbid, we actually need to eat food. We didn't ask for this hell we are all going through. I think not too many people have any savings at all, and are living week by week. I believe our leadership needs to remember when they were younger, when they couldn't pay their bills, when they were hungry, when they couldn't sleep from worrying so much.”

-Kathy from Elmwood Park

“On March 12th, I was sent home from my place of employment, a Broadway theatre. My industry has been drastically affected, with the unfortunate news that we will not be returning to live theatre on Broadway until the earliest in January 2021. The stimulus and unemployment add up to a percentage of what was my weekly income, hence to say if the stimulus were to end, it most definitely would have a drastic impact on my financial realities.

I am also an active member of my hometown Ambulance Corps. I left the theatre one day and the next day was answering the multiple Covid-19 calls we experienced in our town. Our hospital and our Township were ground zero in the early days of the pandemic. It is with great pride, honor and respect for my fellow members, the men and women of our organization that answered the calls during that most difficult period and served our community. Of whom also will be affected if the HEROES Act does not go through. Please continue the fight to pass the HEROES Act!!!!!

-Joe from Teaneck

“I lost my job because of the pandemic. The unemployment benefits I received allowed me to pay my bills, keep food in my refrigerator, and buy masks for my household. I was able to enroll in online classes and webinars that taught me the skills I need to work from home. As an at-risk person, the assistance from unemployment benefits has been a life-saver. Literally.”

-Harlow from Lyndhurst