Gig workers are seeing their unemployment benefits come to an end in 20 GOP states, creating financial anxiety and fear of the future, CBS News reported Friday.
Selina Smedley, who lives in Mansfield, about 30 miles south of Dallas, told CBS News, "There's no unemployment" after June 26 for her and other self-employed workers in Texas. "It's really frustrating that the feds gave us this to help us, and our governor just throws it to the wind. You can't prepare for it when it's a month away."
Smedley, 50, is one of the almost 1 million technically self-employed workers, independent contractors, remote workers -- so-called gig workers because they are an outgrowth of the "gig economy," set to lose benefits under the federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program early when it ends in Texas and 19 other GOP run states, CBS News said.
The program was passed in January during the administration of President Donald Trump and extended benefits to those put out of work, or those that lost self-employment income during the pandemic, until March.
The extension included normal unemployment benefit amounts from the state and an additional $300 per week federal payment.
A subsequent extension from the incoming administration of President Joe Biden, under the American Rescue Plan, extended the benefits through mid-September.
In 20 Republican-run states, however, governors are ending the program because of the huge number of job openings resulting from businesses able to re-open but unable to find workers. Economists such as Stephen Moore at the Heritage Foundation have said the extended and enhanced uneployment benefits have disincentivized many from returning to work since the compensation matches or exceeds the jobs they had.
"When (Texas Gov. Greg) Abbott said there are millions of jobs, maybe so — but for people like me, no one is going to hire a 50-year-old woman who has been out of the loop for so long," Smedley said.
According to the report, the number of this group of workers increased nationally from 52 million in 2015 to 57 million in 2019, including people that work at full-time jobs, but also moonlight.
Abbott and other GOP governors point to the worker shortage in many industries as the nation reopens and say there are jobs available to put these people back on payrolls.
"There are nearly 60 percent more jobs open (and listed) in Texas today than there was in February 2020," Abbott said May 17.
"It is very dangerous for these states to feel comfortable with peeling back the program," Rafael Espinal, executive director of Freelancers Union, told CBS News. "There are domestic workers who are having trouble getting back to work because people aren't currently hiring in those fields."
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