A Nevada man reportedly waited 7 months to get unemployment benefits, but he was evicted and died months later

uber passenger driver
  • A report from Bloomberg Businessweek found half of those who applied for unemployment didn’t get any.
  • One recipient, Ralph Wyncoop, applied in May 2020 and only got them the following December.
  • After having a heart attack and losing his home, he moved into his car. He was found dead in March 2021.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Millions of Americans applied for unemployment benefits during the pandemic and either didn’t get them or had to wait for months, according to a new report from Bloomberg Businessweek. Half of applicants either got rejected or didn’t get them, the report said, and the wait was deadly for some.

One person profiled, Ralph Wyncoop, was an Uber driver in Las Vegas who was rejected from regular unemployment. He applied to the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program, a federal program that expanded unemployment insurance eligibility to gig workers, which opened in May 2020. Wyncoop was eligible for $455 a week, but he didn’t receive the money right away and ended up joining a lawsuit.

Eventually, his PUA application was rejected in July; Leah Jones, one of the lawyers working with him, told Businessweek that he was told he needed to show a utility bill, but his landlord had paid that expense.

Relief didn’t come for Wyncoop until the day before Christmas, when benefits finally arrived. In the interim, he had a heart attack over the summer, and was evicted in October. Technically, a national eviction moratorium is still in place through the end of July 2021, but Businessweek reports that he slept in his car following his eviction. On March 17, according to the report, Wyncoop was found dead in a motel.

Wyncoop was one of millions who found themselves at the mercy of a patchwork unemployment system. The report found that only half of the 64.3 million Americans who applied for benefits from March 1, 2020 to March 31, 2021, were either turned down, or never received money.

Many Americans found themselves staring down ailing state unemployment systems as the pandemic ravaged the economy. Insider’s Nick Lichtenberg and Allana Akhtar reported in September 2020 that at least 35 states had struggled to get benefits out to workers, as state-run systems were overwhelmed by an unprecedented number of claims.

Some senators have seized on these state-system failures to call for permanent reforms to the UI system, with Sens. Ron Wyden of Oregon and Michael Bennet of Colorado introducing a plan that would beef up benefits and modernize the system’s infrastructure. Such legislation has not yet passed in Congress.

Even as some jobless workers struggled to access any aid, over half of the states in the US have opted to cut off enhanced federal benefits early. That decision – which governors have said is meant to compel workers back into the workforce amidst labor market tightness – will impact an estimated 4 million Americans. For many of those who are on programs like PUA, which made gig workers like Wyncoop eligible for aid, benefits will end completely.

There may be some relief for those workers getting cut off, though: A judge in Indiana recently granted a preliminary injunction in a lawsuit brought by cut off workers against the state. That decision may preserve benefits for thousands of jobless Hoosiers.

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Kevin McCarthy mistakenly attributes a 19-year-old’s poster promoting the child tax credit to the IRS

Kevin McCarthy
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California.

  • Kevin McCarthy criticized the IRS for wasting taxpayer dollars on a poster promoting the child tax credit.
  • But 19-year-old college student Tobin Stone actually made the poster – not the IRS.
  • Democrats are pushing for an expansion of the credit while GOP members largely oppose it.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy blamed the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) for wasting taxpayer dollars on a poster promoting the child tax credit. But the IRS actually didn’t make the poster – a 19-year-old college student did.

In a now-deleted Facebook post on Wednesday, McCarthy posted a photo of a poster that college student Tobin Stone created promoting the child tax credit, which is a monthly credit given to families with children. McCarthy attributed the poster to the IRS, though, and criticized the agency for wasting taxpayer dollars on a “government handout.”

“Infuriating,” McCarthy wrote. “The IRS is literally spending taxpayer money to advertise a government handout. This is welfare without the work requirements.”

Stone, a political science and public policy student at Albright College in Pennsylvania, told Forbes he’s been a “big fan” of the child tax credit ever since it was introduced, which is why he created the poster that he first tweeted out in April.

McCarthy has not yet publicly commented on mistakenly attributing the poster to the IRS, but some Democrats were quick to notice the minority leader’s error. Rep. Don Beyer of Virginia, for example, wrote on Twitter that the “IRS had nothing to do with [the poster], but the enhanced Child Tax Credit WILL put money in the pockets of working families, no thanks to @GOPLeader who voted against it.”

Beyer’s is referring to President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion stimulus law, which increased the child tax credit’s amount to $3,600 per child age 5 and under, and $3,000 for every kid between 6 and 17. It gives families the option to receive a monthly payment of $250 or $300 depending on each child’s age, and individuals earning below $75,000 and couples making under $150,000 qualify for the full checks.

Not a single Republican voted for Biden’s stimulus law, but even so, some Republicans, including McCarthy, have been promoting elements of it.

With regard to the child tax credit, Insider’s Joseph Zeballos-Roig reported earlier this month that some centrist senators might stand in the way of a permanent expansion of the credit, which 41 Democratic senators had previously called for.

But Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet, one of the architects of the credit, told Insider he had spoken to some moderates and continues to stress the benefits it will have on American families.

“It’s going to be an amazing moment in modern America where people actually see themselves and their families benefiting dramatically from something that we’ve done in Washington DC,” Bennet said in an interview. “It’s going to make a huge difference to people.”

McCarthy’s office did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.

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Elizabeth Warren says the GOP infrastructure plan is not a ‘serious’ counteroffer and leaves out women

senator elizabeth warren
Sen. Elizabeth Warren.

  • GOP Senators introduced a $928 billion counteroffer to Biden’s $2.25 trillion infrastructure plan.
  • Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren said their plan is not a “serious” offer and leaves out women.
  • She, along with other Democrats, also criticized the GOP idea to repurpose stimulus aid to fund infrastructure.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

A group of Republican senators unveiled their $928 billion counterproposal to President Joe Biden’s infrastructure plan, increasing the price tag from their first $568 billion counteroffer.

Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren was not impressed with this new plan.

“I don’t really think this is a serious counteroffer,” Warren told MSNBC following the release of the plan.

The past few weeks in the White House have been filled with Oval Office meetings attempting to get Republicans on board with Biden’s $4 trillion infrastructure plan. After a GOP group – led by Sen. Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia – met with Biden to discuss their original $568 billion proposal, the White House countered that with a $1.7 trillion proposal, down from its initial price tag of $2.25 trillion on the American Jobs Plan.

And on Thursday, the Republicans brought a $928 billion offer to the table, largely focused on funding for physical infrastructure, and only a $257 billion increase in new government spending beyond what Congress has already authorized.

Warren criticized the plan for lacking a clear funding method and only suggesting repurposing already allocated stimulus funds.

“First of all, they don’t have pay-fors for this, it’s not real,” Warren said. “They have this illusory notion of how we’re going to take money that’s already been committed to other places and other spending.”

She added that women are also left behind in this package because while Biden’s American Families Plan proposed significant investments in childcare, the GOP offer does not allocate any funding toward care-economy measures.

“Millions of women are out of the workforce right now and one out of four says the reason [for that]: I can’t get childcare,” Warren said. “This is our chance to expand our idea of what infrastructure means. Give women who want to work a real chance in the workplace,” she added.

Other Democratic lawmakers joined Warren in criticizing not only the GOP plan, but the idea of using stimulus aid to pay for it instead of the corporate tax hikes Biden had originally proposed.

“They’re talking about using the child tax credit to pay for this,” Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet told reporters. “This is a significant tax cut for working people. Ninety percent of America’s kids – more than that – are going to benefit. It’s going to cut childhood poverty almost in half so I really don’t understand their desire to raise taxes on working people.”

And Insider reported that 14 state treasurers are urging Congress to refrain from repurposing stimulus money to fund infrastructure, given that the aid is much needed to sustain economic recovery for state and local governments.

“This is called a jobs bill. It’s infrastructure and jobs,” Warren said. “So long as we’re investing in roads and bridges and lots of concrete, about 90% of those jobs are going to be for men. But when we’re talking about childcare, those jobs are nearly all going to women and those jobs today pay far too little. We have a chance to turn those into good paying, professional jobs.”

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Biden’s new plan pledges unemployment reform, but doesn’t put money behind it

joe biden amtrak
President Joe Biden.

  • President Joe Biden unveiled the sprawling second part of his infrastructure package today.
  • It pledges an effort to reform unemployment benefits, which Democrats have championed.
  • However, the details are still vague and it doesn’t allocate funds; Democrats have been pressing for more.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

On Wednesday, President Joe Biden unveiled a $1.8 trillion economic plan that would invest heavily in childcare, education, and workers.

One part of the sprawling package includes a pledge to work with lawmakers on reforming unemployment insurance, a top priority for Democrats like Sens. Ron Wyden and Michael Bennet. The White House briefing document states the president seeks a system that puts jobless aid on autopilot, meaning government help would automatically increase when the economy crashes and there’s a sudden spike in the unemployment rate.

However, the administration’s plan does not list specific goals such as a wage replacement level, nor set aside federal money for it. Still, some experts are cautiously optimistic about the trajectory of negotiations to strengthen that element of the safety net.

“It’s a good start,” Andrew Stettner, an unemployment expert at the Century Foundation, told Insider. “It’s really clear this part of the economic policymaking is definitely going to be a partnership between the White House and Congress.”

“This part is certainly not fully baked and there needs to be additional baking for what would get into the final basket of items,” Stettner said.

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Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR).

Acknowledging the need for reform is ‘important,’ and eyes turn to what comes next

Arindrajit Dube, a professor of economics at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, has created his own plan for reforming UI. It includes making unemployment insurance federally administered, expanding eligibility, and upping the benefit replacement rate.

The US has various state unemployment systems “with varying degrees of dysfunction” that are being held together by pandemic-era federal policies that will expire in a few months, Dube said, underscoring the need for reform.

Dube was one of the economists who’s been calling on the Biden administration to include UI reform in the infrastructure package.

“The fact that the White House did clearly acknowledge the importance of fundamental UI reform is important, even though obviously it’s better when that’s paired with specific proposals, with specific dollar amounts, and funding stream,” Dube said. He said he credits the White House for being “ambitious and thoughtful,” and looks forward to seeing more.

In Congress, Wyden and Bennet have introduced a bill to permanently bulk up unemployment insurance payments. And last week, 38 Democrats – including Sen. Bernie Sanders and Wyden – sent the White House a letter calling for permanent unemployment reforms.

Chief among their concerns is the role that temporary pandemic measures played in bolstering benefits and income. An analysis from left-leaning Economic Policy Institute (EPI) found that the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program – which expanded unemployment eligibility to freelancers and gig workers – made up the largest share of UI assistance by the end of 2020.

A chance to have a ‘broader conversation’

Pandemic UI also made up an unprecedented share of Americans’ incomes in 2020, and bolstered benefits (like the additional $600 in weekly benefits from the CARES Act) helped plug holes in states’ offerings.

Early in the pandemic, state unemployment systems struggled to distribute a $600 weekly federal unemployment benefit, causing delays stretching for weeks or even months for many laid-off workers.

“One thing to keep in mind is we’ve never had as many Americans who themselves or their family members have relied on unemployment insurance since probably the Great Depression,” Dube said. He added, “I think it’s a chance for us to, in the public sphere, have a broader conversation.”

Democrats argue they want to avoid repeating mistakes of the last recession in 2009. Among them are preventing painful cuts to unemployment insurance during the recovery.

“We can’t fail again to fix and update it in the wake of the second economic crisis in 10 years,” Wyden said in a statement on Wednesday. “This is a top priority of mine as we move forward.”

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Democrats are pushing Biden at the last minute to put a permanently expanded child tax credit in his latest economic plan

Rosa Delauro
Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT).

  • Democrats are doubling down on efforts for Biden to keep the expanded child tax credit.
  • “Kids don’t grow up in five years,” one House Democrat said.
  • Making CTC changes permanent could stumble in the Senate if Democrats decide to bypass the GOP.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

As President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion emergency stimulus law was about to clear the House in late February, some Democrats started setting the stage for their next battle: Making the beefed-up child tax credit permanent.

Sen. Sherrod Brown told reporters that Democrats would press the Biden administration on the issue as soon as the stimulus law was signed, speaking as part of a group of other Democratic lawmakers.

He later tweeted an image of the group on Twitter. It included Sens. Michael Bennet and Cory Booker and Reps. Rosa DeLauro, Suzan DelBene, and Ritchie Torres. DeLauro recently dubbed the group “the CTC Six.”

The stimulus strengthened the child tax credit, increasing it to $3,600 per child under age 6 and $3,000 for kids between 6 and 17. Previously, the amount stood at $2,000, and families with little or no tax obligations could not tap into it.

Those Democrats are now ratcheting up the pressure on Biden as he gears up to unveil a massive new economic plan focused on families on Wednesday, particularly education and childcare. They are already warning against a temporary expansion until 2025, a five-year extension the White House is reportedly eyeing.

“Kids don’t grow up in five years. Parents need predictability to plan for their future over the long term,” DelBene told reporters on a Tuesday press call. “I asked the president in March if he supports permanently expanding the credit, and he said yes.”

The right-leaning Tax Foundation projects it would cost $1.6 trillion over a decade.

“Some have been concerned about the cost. I say the cost of inaction is too great,” DelBene said. “The president will propose his plan. Congress is going to write the bill.”

Democrats may move parts or the entirety of Biden’s $4 trillion infrastructure plan through reconciliation, a maneuver to guard legislation from the 60-vote threshold in the Senate and pave the way for a simple-majority vote. But it must comply with strict budgetary rules, such as barring any deficit increases after a decade.

“The issue really is budgetary score and permanence,” Zach Moller, a budget expert from the center-left group Third Way, told Insider.

Moller said making the child tax credit expansion permanent requires a finding a way to pay for it. “All of these things are competing for offsets. You can increase the deficit inside a 10-year window, outside that 10-year window or whatever budget window you want for the bill, you cannot increase the deficit.”

Meanwhile, other lawmakers said Republicans would fight to prevent an extension, or tie it to another conservative policy priority.

“We know that when this expires in five years … if we don’t do a permanent fix, we know in five years they will come after that and they will want huge corporate tax cuts, which they always do,” Brown told reporters.

Republicans largely oppose the child tax credit expansion, assailing it as a costly liberal priority. But some conservatives, Mitt Romney and Josh Hawley, have put out proposals over the last few months that include monthly cash benefits to families. Hawley’s plan was focused on married couples and it had a steep income requirement to qualify.

Still, many conservatives argue a program for monthly cash payments with no strings attached would foster dependency on the federal government.

“I still think its a bad idea to create a policy where large swaths of the population come to anticipate and look forward to the federal government sending them a check in the mail every month,” Scott Winship, director of poverty studies at the right-leaning American Enterprise Institute, said in an interview.

Democrats are gearing up to continue making their case to the Biden administration, focused on its benefits to families. Many believe that argument will be easier to make once the IRS begins distributing the checks in July.

“Just because it doesn’t make it in the plan, it doesn’t mean that door is completely closed,” a House Democratic aide told Insider.

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