Economic justice

As unemployment benefits end in 26 states, economic justice movement turns to long-term solutions

The governors of 26 states have already ended additional federal unemployment benefits, and the rest are expected to expire in early September, unless Congress takes action to extend them. (Creative Commons)

After more than a year of dealing with the economic fallout caused by COVID-19, several things have become clear: the pandemic has disproportionately affected women, especially women of color; and federal policies, not individual strategies, are needed to help Americans make a full recovery.

In response to the gendered and racialized impacts of the pandemic, resulting in a drastic drop in the participation of women in the labor marketThe Biden administration has attempted to support struggling Americans through policies such as the US bailout, which, among other provisions, provides additional financial support to those unemployed during the pandemic.

But unfortunately these additional unemployment benefits have become increasingly politicized. Conservative politicians critical of policies such as unemployment benefits and guaranteed income attempt to present people receiving benefits or money directly as “dependent on the unemployment system” and discouraged from working. In addition to being totally inaccurate, states that prematurely ended supplementary unemployment benefits have not seen an increase in employment levels, according to recent studies, these damaging myths target already marginalized groups like low-income women of color.

Nevertheless, across the country, the governors of 26 states (25 GOPs and a democratic state) have already ended federal supplementary unemployment benefits — funding provided entirely by the federal government at no cost to state budgets — and the rest is will expire at the beginning of September unless Congress takes action to expand them.

Fake message on who works and Why erases the lived experiences of those struggling to provide for themselves and their families. For example, a black mother who received unemployment benefits and guaranteed income during the pandemic, Ebony (last name withheld), explained:

“There is this untruth that women like me sit at home and do nothing. TV and things, they think we’re at home sitting lazily doing nothing, doing all these kids, everyone takes their money and runs and goes shopping. And it is definitely not the truth. I can’t tell you the last time I went to a mall or whatever, I just go to the grocery store to buy the things we need. I’m not lazy, I work my butt day and night. Nobody wants to be broke, I know I don’t want it.

(Illustration by Brandi Phipps)

Restoring unemployment benefits would make a huge difference to many Americans, especially low-income women and women of color. But this is only the first step. COVID-19 laid bare and exacerbated growing disparities in wealth and the racial and gender inequalities endemic to the US economy.

It is time for the United States to build an economy that works for everyone and a level playing field. An economy that is not based on an extractive business model, which requires employees to be available at all hours of the day or night. the night, often for poverty wages. An economy that does not leave millions of people without a living wage or benefits like paid sick leave, forcing them to live paycheck. One where the rich pay their fair share.

The introduction of new federal policies focused on economic equality, such as guaranteed income, is a stepping stone towards this reality.

Mother Magnolia’s trust (MMT) is a concrete example of how abstract economic policies debated at the national level can have huge impacts on marginalized communities. Based in Jackson, Mississippi, MMT is an initiative that demonstrates the power of unconditional financial benefits, providing black mothers living in extreme poverty $ 1,000 per month for one year. For many of these women, the combination of increased unemployment benefits and a guaranteed income gave them the economic security they needed to care for their families and work towards long-term goals. By sharing their stories in MrsIn the Front and Center series, they show how cash relief provided a safety net for themselves and their children.

(Illustration by Brandi Phipps)

MMT mom, Tia, explained:

“I know people say if you have programs like these people will stop working. Personally, I don’t understand this – I mean, I think it’s fine if someone makes that choice, but for me, I still want to work, I want to increase my money, not decrease it. It’s not about not working; it’s just about being able to take some free time, take a week and spend it with your kids, and then get back to work. I wasn’t able to do this before, to have this free time without worrying about covering the bills.

“It was tough,” said Sabrina, another MMT mother. “I’m not used to not working and being at home. And of course, it’s also difficult because of the loss of income. Unemployment has helped me hold on. But now the governor just announced that Mississippi is going to cut us off extra unemployment benefits, so I’m going to lose that $ 300 a week. It will be hard. ”

MMT’s mother, Nikki, relies on federal aid due to a disability, but previously worked in child care. “I really, really miss the job,” she said. “It’s hard. I miss my babies, the ones I took care of before. You fall in love with these kids who spend so much time with them.

Nikki (left) and Sabrina (right), two mothers registered with the Magnolia Mother’s Trust, which annually provides more than 100 black mothers living in extreme poverty in Jackson, Mississippi, a guaranteed income of $ 1,000 per month for one year. (Illustration by Brandi Phipps)

These moms are not on “margins”Refusing to work; they all have goals for themselves and their families. Sabrina plans to study nursing, buy her own house, and send her son to a school for dyslexic children. Tia was able to move out of subsidized housing. And Ebony is working to open her own nail salon and buy a house.

“Invest in yourself,” she advised other MMT mothers. “It can be anything – you don’t have to start a business – it can be personal care or learning something new. But you are the most important investment you can make.

Unemployment benefits are already difficult to access. After waiting a month, Ebony was only able to receive the benefits she was owed because she had done the nails of a woman who worked in the state employment service.

Instead of reducing access to COVID benefits, now is the chance to expand and consolidate them into a permanent policy. It is only through universal policies such as increasing unemployment benefits, expanding the child tax credit and guaranteed income that the United States can create an economic model that works in a post world. -pandemic and enables women, low income people and people of color to recover and achieve their goal. full potential.

Editor’s Note: MrsThe Front and Center series of. features first-person testimonials from black women living in extreme poverty who participate in the Magnolia Mother’s Trust which provides beneficiaries with a guaranteed income of $ 1,000 per month for 12 months. Front and center, these mothers talk about their struggles, their children, their jobs, their relationships and their dreams for the future, and how a federal guaranteed income program could change their lives. Get caught here.


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