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Letters to the Editor: Coronavirus keeps people from work, not $600 in unemployment

Unemployment protest
Motorists take part in a caravan protest in front the Hale Boggs Federal Building in New Orleans asking for an extension of the $600 in unemployment benefits.
(Associated Press)

To the editor: It is disheartening that policymakers are suggesting the $600 supplemental unemployment benefit should be drastically cut because it supposedly provides a disincentive to work. The facts simply do not support this, as shown in recent studies from Yale University and the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.

Our experience at Chrysalis, a nonprofit that helps poor and homeless people find jobs, supports the view that people want to get back to work, regardless of the availability of these benefits. We surveyed our case managers this week to ask them what they are hearing from the 3,700 clients they have spoken to since the pandemic began.

Of those clients who are receiving unemployment, only a handful say they would prefer to stay on unemployment rather than returning to work — and those clients are either in a high-risk category and afraid for their health, or have other challenging family situations that would make it difficult to return to work.

The vast majority say they want to work. They enjoy the security and dignity that come with a steady job, need the income and benefits, and miss their colleagues.

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Let’s get real: These benefits feed families, pay rent and are keeping our economy (barely) afloat. Congress must do its job and extend this crucial benefit immediately.

Mark Loranger, Los Angeles

The writer is president and chief executive of Chrysalis.

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To the editor: While I agree that aid for idled workers should be extended, it should be less than the current extra $600 per week in federal benefits.

It is completely unfair that people working in lower-paying jobs are receiving less money than those who are sitting at home. There are still a large number of jobs available, but the current benefit structure does not incentivize the unemployed to look for work.

Obviously, older workers and those with underlying health issues should not be encouraged to work in high-contact areas, but younger people should be employed.

Allen Wisniewski, Redondo Beach

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To the editor: Cutting the federal unemployment benefit from the flat rate of $600 a week to 70% of a person’s previous earnings just maintains the inequalities that low-wage workers experience.

What is the justification for this as we see the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on Black and Latinx people and on low-wage workers? If employers want people to go back to work, pay them a living wage; don’t lower their unemployment benefit.

Unemployed workers need this $600 a week to survive, to feed their kids, to pay the rent. There are few jobs for them to return to.

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Cutting unemployment is just a way to keep low wage workers poor. It is a way to force people to go back to dangerous jobs instead of making employers change workplaces so they are safer and pay an adequate wage.

Barbara Berney, Los Angeles


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