As Congress recesses for the rest of the summer without reaching a stimulus deal, tens of millions of Americans are left wondering how they will pay their bills.
Though Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has said members will return to vote if a deal is reached, that could still be weeks away, CNBC reported. In the meantime, around 28 million Americans are currently collecting jobless benefits, and as many as 40 million could face eviction if Congress does not pass a relief bill soon, according to Emily Benfer, a housing expert.
Hundreds of readers — from all over the country and across the political spectrum — wrote into CNBC Make It to detail how the Senate’s failure to pass another aid package is affecting them and their families. Many expressed outrage at Congress’s inaction. Others simply wanted to vent to someone about their situation, they said.
“When I saw them ignore the desperate need for a new stimulus for almost two months, I was stunned,” Hugh Wasson, 66, writes to CNBC Make It. Wasson is currently unable to find work, and lives off of his Social Security payments and jobless benefits from Florida, which do not cover all of his bills. “I am still unable to believe anyone could be so callous, let alone a whole roomful of them.”
Here’s how seven other unemployed Americans across the country are faring.
‘At this point, I’d take anything’
Before Covid-19, Jane, who asked to be identified by a pseudonym for privacy purposes, made a good living as a waitress in Southern Indiana, taking home around $600 to $800 per week. Now, with her restaurant still closed, she receives $141 per week, after taxes, in state jobless benefits.
With so little money, her rent, electric and cable bills have gone unpaid this month, and she has let her car and rental insurance policies lapse. Waiting for Congress to do something, she says, has turned her into “a ball of stress.”
“Literally the only thing[s] I think about [are] money, bills, money, debt, food,” she says. “I wake up thinking about these things, and I go to bed, struggling to fall asleep, thinking about these things.”
The 33-year-old has been working since she was 15, she says, and this is the longest period of time she’s been without a job. She says that if any member of Congress were in her place — unsure of how’d they’d pay rent or be able to buy groceries — they’d come to a deal fast.
“I get that [Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi] wants $600 extended benefits, I’d love that, when I was getting that I was able to keep up with all of my bills,” she says. “But at this point, I’d take anything.”
‘We will lose everything’
Without the extra $600 per week in jobless benefits the federal government was providing for the first few months of the pandemic, Jessica Moreno, 36, tells CNBC Make It her check dropped to $239 per week in Washington state, which isn’t enough to cover all of her bills.
One of her children has a rare heart condition, Moreno says, and her doctor has told her working could “risk the safety” of her daughter. She works in health care and would be at a higher risk to virus exposure.
“Some of us don’t have the choice to work and we will lose everything in the next few weeks,” says Moreno. “We don’t have much to begin with. I think it’s very selfish of people in Congress to not think about the children and families who were already strapped.”
This is the first time Moreno has applied for unemployment benefits in her life, she says, and she would look for work if she could. But her child’s health takes precedence.
“As they argue, my family’s well-being hangs in the balance,” she says.
‘How am I going to feed my kids?’
Jon Meadows, a 28-year-old father of two in Mississippi, lost his job at the Mississippi Coast Coliseum a few months ago. Without the enhanced benefit, his unemployment payment has fallen to $34 per week, he says. Rent alone is $800 per month.
The only jobs available near him, he says, are at fast food restaurants. But the pay wouldn’t be enough to cover all of his bills, and they don’t offer any other benefits, like health insurance, that he and his wife and kids need.
“I am now stuck sitting here wondering, how am I going to feed my kids? How am I going to take care of my bills? How am I supposed to survive?” he says. “I hope that we get something, anything to help my family out.”
‘There is no help’
Since March, Ashley Eldreth has been juggling searching for work, applying for unemployment benefits and taking care of her two children. The fear of catching Covid-19 is an ever-present menace in the background.
“Right now I’m a teacher, a doctor, a chef, a mom, everything in one,” the 30-year-old tells CNBC Make It. “A little help would be completely amazing right now! We need the help now more than ever!”
The Pennsylvania resident wants Congress to “stop bickering” and come to an agreement to help people who are struggling to make it all work. Another stimulus check and a continuation of the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program, which she qualifies for, would help her pay her bills and ease some of the worry in the coming months.
“I am honestly just completely outraged at this whole ordeal right now,” she says. “People, like myself, are struggling! And there is no help.”
‘What am I to do?’
Without enhanced benefits, Adam Redmond, a 45-year-old widower, says he is trying to support himself and his 9-year-old daughter on $160 per week in Michigan.
He typically makes enough from his lawn maintenance business and odd jobs to get by, but all of his work dried up thanks to Covid-19. “The extra money has saved me in every aspect humanly possible,” Redmond tells CNBC Make It.
Compounding his worries, his daughter’s school is not having in-person classes, so he needs to be home to care for her.
“What am I to do?” he says. “I know I have to take care of my daughter, no matter what, and it drives me crazy, but I must be patient.”
‘I am personally at my wits’ end’
Troy Wilson, 57, thought 2020 would be the year he got back on his feet. He had fallen behind financially after losing his son and having a few surgeries, but he had scheduled a few larger projects at the beginning of the year that promised big paydays.
Then Covid-19 hit, and he lost all of his jobs. Now, the contractor has been without income since March, and receives $150 per week in jobless benefits in Indiana. To make ends meet, he has sold most of the tools he needs to do his work.
“Although I have always been resilient, I’ll admit I personally am at my wits’ end due to [Congress’s] negligence,” Wilson tells CNBC Make It.
He has never applied for jobless benefits before, he says, which is a point of pride. That makes it especially difficult to hear critics say that people don’t want to work because they are making more money on unemployment.
“I cringe at the mention that they are paying me more to stay home than work,” he says. “I pray that they in Congress are never faced with the tribulations they have placed all of us in and never experience the demeaning attacks I am now enduring.”
‘There aren’t any jobs’
In March, Cara Fry, 55, was laid off from her job in the medical device industry, where she was making around $70,000 per year. She’s worried that employers won’t hire her because of her age and experience level.
“I have worked since I was a little girl, and I have paid my taxes. I have never received unemployment benefits before in my life,” the Ohio resident tells CNBC Make It. “I am so tired of this attitude, But please don’t help the poor Americans who lost their livelihood because of a global pandemic of no fault of their own!”
“It cracks me up when people say that we make too much on unemployment and it will keep people from getting a job,” Fry continues. “There aren’t any jobs.”