Will the expiration of COVID-19 Enhanced Federal Unemployment Insurance Benefits ease shortages of workers?

Sep 9, 2021
Written by wpengine

Enhanced federal unemployment insurance benefits included in the American Rescue Act to assist workers impacted by COVID-19 disruptions expired on September 3. The week ending September 4 was the last week a person could file for extra weeks of federal benefits. Additionally, it was also the last week for claiming the additional $300 per week federal benefit. Claimants once again have to wait a week before collecting benefits.

According to data released by the Employment Security Department (ESD), there were 272,845 Washington workers collecting unemployment insurance benefits in the past week. This is the lowest number of UI beneficiaries since the peak levels reached in May 2020; however, it still exceeds pre-pandemic levels. On a positive note, ESD also reported that the 4-week moving average for regular initial claims was 5,345, lower than 5,024 initial claims filed during the same pre-pandemic period in 2019.

At the August 11 meeting of the Unemployment Insurance Advisory Committee, ESD stated, “it is anticipated that 205,000 individuals will most likely run out of state and federal unemployment insurance benefits after September 4.”

The Seattle Times recently reported different metrics citing 120,000 beneficiaries will exhaust their state and federal benefits on September 4 (120,000 in Washington will lose federal jobless benefits next week. Here’s what the state says | The Seattle Times). The difference between the two estimates appears to be that some claimants will continue to receive the $300 federal benefit until they exhaust their weekly state claims.

Despite the differing predictions, what is known is that many people will no longer be receiving enhanced federal unemployment insurance benefits beginning this week.

Will eliminating federal benefits ease the shortage of available workers that retail and other sectors are facing? No one knows. Workers are facing challenges with the cost and availability of childcare, rising COVID-19 case counts have raised safety concerns, and many workers have made career changes during the pandemic.