As we observe Labor Day this calendar year, millions of people across the U.S. stay from work as the COVID-19 pandemic has been roil communities throughout the nation. Congress’s failure to expand the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) program — that the $600 a week which has been maintaining employees and our economy afloat — has left many stranded, not able to pay rent and bills.
As a lawyer with seven decades of experience helping vulnerable childhood overcome legal obstacles to obtaining employment and higher education, I’ve seen the hardships young men and women confront when trying to go into the job market. I cofounded the Youth Justice Project in Community Legal Services of Philadelphia to draw a focus on the particular and complex struggles of young folks and holistically address the myriad legal problems they confront.
It is essential to comprehend the effect this continuing unemployment disaster has had on young employees, and young Black employees specifically. Before that the COVID-19 pandemic struck, Black childhood were already locked from numerous employment opportunities, based on a 2018 jobs report. Here at Philadelphia, that a 2017 University of Chicago survey discovered Black childhood were grappling with homelessness and housing insecurity at rates far higher than other populations. The pandemic has just exacerbated the inequities brought on by racism that already exist across the nation, and since the market gradually reopens there are indications that Black workers are facing higher rates of unemployment and young people may feel the negative effects of the pandemic for years to come.
According to The Century Foundation, young people made up 12percent of their workforce pre-pandemic, if it had been traditional, full-time job, a part-time occupation at the gig market, or even a workforce training program. Moreover, as Phildalephia’s WHYY reported, most young individuals have functioned as crucial workers throughout the pandemic or are now being called back in to work. While the CDC has found that young folks, overall, are in a lower risk for health complications in COVID-19, most young people as well as in particular, young people of color, have health conditions that do put them at higher risk. Many youths also live with relatives or other people who are elderly or higher risk — as of 2016, 20percent of the U.S. inhabitants lived in multigenerational families according to data from the Pew Research Center. These young men and women deserve to have income without placing their health and the health of their loved ones in danger. Yet the Washington Post found that young people are often left out of the conversation around access to emergency funds throughout the pandemic and safety and health rights at work.
The recently created Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) is one way childhood have managed to get income throughout the pandemic; the program greatly expanded access to unemployment benefits, including more young people. Youth that wouldn’t be eligible for the traditional Unemployment Compensation (UC) program since they don’t have sufficient previous work history can qualify to get PUA benefits. Likewise, youth that had been part-time while also visiting college or who had been participated in apps like Americorps who had to shut down might not qualify under their nation’s UC schedule but are eligible for PUA.
Many young men and women who had been functioning prior to the pandemic had short work histories or were underemployed in low-wage jobs. In my expertise as an employment lawyer for young men and women, I have seen that young men and women browse the complex process for getting and keeping PUA benefits. And I have seen how frequently they’re just getting Pennsylvania’s minimum weekly benefit amount of 195. Advocates on our Youth Justice Project have helped young people gain income assistance like FPUC and UC or PUA. Our customers who had been on the edge of homelessness reported this support was the one thing which kept them and their families safely planted. For these young men and women, losing the 600 a week in FPUC has become catastrophic.