Coronavirus Relief Often Pays Workers More Than Work

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Roughly half of all U.S. workers stand to earn more in unemployment benefits than they did at their jobs before the coronavirus pandemic shut down wide swaths of the U.S. economy, and employers say the government relief is complicating plans to reopen businesses.

The package of coronavirus stimulus laws Congress passed and President Trump signed in March included a $600 boost to weekly unemployment benefits through July 31. As that support is added to state benefits over the coming weeks, the average weekly payment to a laid-off worker should rise to about $978 from the $377.97 the Labor Department said was paid on average late last year.

Qualified workers will receive the government payout every week through July, and in most cases, the combined $978 weekly payout amounts to better pay than what many workers received before the crisis hit. Labor Department statistics show half of full-time workers earned $957 or less a week in the first quarter of 2020.

The stimulus measure means many low-wage workers will avoid significant harm to their finances in the coming months. It puts money in consumers’ pockets and the U.S. economy on firmer footing to rebound once authorities allow businesses to reopen. But enhanced benefits also create disincentives that might hamper efforts by employers to recall workers when some states are trying to reopen their economies.

It is possible that workers could ask their bosses to leave them on furlough so they can collect the larger payments while avoiding potential health risks of returning to crowded workplaces. Employers, meanwhile, are in the position of asking workers to get back on the payroll, either so companies can reopen, or the business can qualify for forgiveness of government loans. – READ MORE

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