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Gould-Werth: Low-Wage Worker Casey Miller:—Noted

It is essential to dig down through the numbers to the real lives of representative and typical people whom the numbers aggregate: Alix Gould-Werth: What's happening with low-wage workers who are benefiting from the 600 boost in weekly unemployment benefits[?] https://twitter.com/alixgouldwerth/status/1275078011021225992 I’d like to introduce you to one of those workers: Casey Miller. Casey’s job designing and serving high-end cocktails was his passion. He made about 700 a week, including tips...

...When the coronavirus hit, he feared contracting COVID-19 at work. Then, the bar closed, and his worries shifted to his economic future. The servers hosting his state's Unemployment Insurance system crashed. But Casey was persistent. He filed at 3 in the morning, when web traffic was low. Now, each week, he receives $60 in regular benefits and a 600 pandemic-specific top-off. The simple 600 increase lets average workers cash unemployment checks roughly equal to their old paychecks. The lowest earners bring home more than they made on the job, and the highest earners bring home less....

This is a smart way to target benefits. What did Casey do when he received an unemployment check that was larger than his paycheck? He spent it. To make ends meet, he needed every penny of his unemployment check.... While high-earning workers save benefit dollars, low-earning workers spend them out of financial necessity. And these low-earning workers are precisely who is being affected by the coronavirus recession. So, the extra 600 creates a virtuous cycle. Directing cash to those who need it most channels dollars to businesses, which employ more workers, who in turn have income to spend.

Those worrying that the 600 will disincentivize a return to work miss the point: With 4.6 unemployed workers per opening, what jobs are they trying to incentivize people to take? And many low-wage employers are operating at the expense of worker safety. Letting the 600 top-off expire in July spells disaster for our families and for our economy…

.#noted #2020-06-24

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