Nearly 2 million Americans will lose pandemic unemployment benefits early as more Republican states drop relief

FILE - In this Sept. 2, 2020 file photo, a customer wears a face mask as they carry their order past a now hiring sign at an eatery in Richardson, Texas. The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits fell last week to 751,000, the lowest since March, but it's still historically high and indicates the viral pandemic is still forcing many employers to cut jobs. (AP Photo/LM Otero, File)

— Nearly 2 million jobless Americans are set to lose their pandemic unemployment benefits early, with Georgia, Arizona and Ohio becoming the latest Republican-led states to announce they would cease providing enhanced federal jobless payments.

Thursday’s announcements bring the total to 16 states that have said since last week that they would terminate the $300 weekly federal boost to state benefits, as well as the federal expansion of jobless benefits to those who previously didn’t qualify and those who have run out of their regular state benefits. Governors are citing workforce shortages and the improving economy as the reason for their decisions.

The payments, which Democrats recently extended until early September as part of their $1.9 trillion coronavirus rescue package, will end as soon as June 12 in some states.

The jobless could lose as much $10.8 billion in payments in these states, Stettner said, though the figure assumes all states are ending the payments on June 12. At least three states are terminating on that date, but others are ceasing the benefits over the following few weeks.

Of particular concern, he added, are the nearly 1.4 million out-of-work Americans who are currently in the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance and the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Assistance programs. Those recipients will not receive any payments once their states withdraw.

Those programs, which were created by Congress in March 2020 to address the coronavirus-fueled economic upheaval, broadened benefits to freelancers, independent contractors, the self-employed and certain people affected by the coronavirus, while the latter extends the duration of regular state benefits.

Those on regular state benefits, which typically last up to 26 weeks, will continue receiving that compensation, but stop getting the $300 federal supplement.

If all Republican governors were to pull out, some 4.8 million workers would be affected, and $29 billion in payments would be lost.

These funds don’t only help the jobless, experts argue. They help local businesses and economies because those out of work are able to continue spending on groceries, housing costs and other items.

“The same businesses that are complaining about not being able to find an extra dishwasher, they are taking swipe and after swipe from unemployed people on their debit cards to buy food,” Stettner said. “It’s just really short-sighted.”