Angry doesn’t begin to describe how Nancy Kaimowitz feels. Like at least 795,000 other New Jerseyans, her $600 federal pandemic unemployment subsidy runs out this week. Her job with Netflix remains on hold, and any new unemployment payments will depend on how quickly Washington can hammer out a new pandemic aid package.
“The mere fact that they’re letting millions of people dangle financially, the cruelty in that — again, how unbelievably out of touch, the stress that they are putting on people! I have aged, all of us. The enormous stress they’re putting on people, millions of people, that need that money,” she said.
Republicans spent more than two months debating what the aid package should include. The proposal reportedly provides another one-time $1,200 stimulus check but scraps the weekly $600 unemployment subsidy, on which many unemployed New Jersey residents rely, in lieu of payments tied to lost wages.
“We’re not going to pay people more to stay home than to work. So we’re looking at something that looks like a 70% wage replacement, and we’re working on the mechanics of that,” said U.S. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin.
Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) gave a thumbs-down to the GOP plan at a Newark news conference Monday, demanding more financial help for state and city governments that have hemorrhaged revenues during the pandemic and now face enormous budget deficits.
“Each time that this has happened, we as Democrats have had to stand our ground and say, ‘No, that’s not enough. It doesn’t help people. It doesn’t help people in their unemployment. It doesn’t people in their housing. It doesn’t help people in their health care.’ So, no, we’re not going to agree to this,” Menendez said.
“Washington has bailed out corporations time after time after time. It’s time to help the people with that same tenacity, with that same purpose and with that same fervor,” said Newark Mayor Ras Baraka.
Gov. Phil Murphy echoed those sentiments at his coronavirus news briefing on Monday.
“To leave individuals hanging out there right now unemployed is probably the last thing we should be doing. To not fund robust testing, supplies, capacity — and continue to fund is a federal government matter — right now is about the last thing we should be doing. Not delivering states and county and local entities direct federal cash is about the last thing we should be doing right now,” Murphy said.
Senate Republicans reportedly want to limit payments to 70% of wages lost, but they’re concerned that state computer systems won’t be able to handle calculations that complex.
Even after weeks of playing catch-up, New Jersey’s Department of Labor is still struggling with backlogs. It’s paid 96% of unemployment claims, but that leaves more than 48,000 still unresolved. A department spokesman said people who ultimately qualified for the $600 federal subsidies will still receive back payments.
Meanwhile, Kaimowitz was told that her job is not coming back until July 2021.
“I can’t get to the point where I have zero money because I’ve got to think about feeding myself for the next 14 months,” she said, adding that it’s the uncertainty that’s hardest to bear.