For millions of Americans, Labor Day 2021 represents a perilous crossroads. Two primary anchors of the government’s COVID protection package are ending or have recently ended.
Starting today, an estimated 8.9 million people will lose all unemployment benefits. A federal eviction moratorium already has expired.
While other aspects of pandemic assistance including rental aid and the expanded Child Tax Credit are still widely available, untold millions of Americans will face Labor Day with a suddenly shrunken social safety net.
“This will be a double whammy of hardship,” said Jamie Contreras, secretary-treasurer of the SEIU, a union that represents custodians in office buildings and food service workers in airports. “We’re not anywhere near done. People still need help. … For millions of people nothing has changed from a year and a half ago.”
The end to these protections while the economic crisis persists could have a devastating impact on lower-middle class families that were barely holding on through the pandemic. President Joe Biden and the Democrats who control Congress are at a crossroads, allowing the aid to expire as they focus instead on his more sweeping “build back better” package of infrastructure and other spending. The $3.5 trillion proposal would rebuild many of the safety net programs, but it faces hurdles in the closely divided Congress.