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Unemployed People Tell Their Stories As CARES Act Benefits End


As we've heard, tens of millions of people are out of work as a result of the pandemic. Since March, many of them have been helped by the enhanced unemployment benefits provided through the CARES Act. But that extra $600 a week ran out yesterday, and Congress has not been able to agree on a new deal. That's leaving the unemployed, like Allegra Troiano, scrambling.

ALLEGRA TROIANO: I am in Milwaukee, Wis. And until May 1, I was the center director for ELS Language Centers. We train international students in English for undergraduate and graduate programs at Marquette and other universities throughout the United States. By mid-April, with our enrollment numbers dropping off - the Japanese had gone home; Chinese were starting to go home - so we were all laid off as of May 1.

I have been getting the extra 600, and that's made all the difference in the world between me being able to pay my mortgage. All of a sudden, because we were laid off, I also had a $600 a month COBRA bill. I have car payments. I have utilities. I have food. It's allowed me to pay off - you know, just basically survive.

Now that the enhanced benefits are ending, I'm in a panic for myself. I really worry. I worry for everybody.

SETH MCPHAIL: Whenever COVID hit, it hit us pretty quick because, obviously, we're in the studio all day, dancing with each other and literally touching each other and all that. My name is Seth McPhail, and I'm in Houston, Texas, and I am a professional dancer, dance teacher and choreographer. We had a quarantine pretty quick out of work, so it was like, without this money, I can't keep up with bills. And, unfortunately, now that the benefits are running out, I am - honestly, I'm scared. I don't know what I'm going to do now, necessarily. And with no tangible end date to this pandemic, it's hard to know how to proceed, to be honest.

CATHERINE IMANI: I'm Catherine Imani (ph). I'm an organizer and currently a freelance web designer living in York, Ala., in Sumter County. I'm very lucky. I've been able to work with a handful of small businesses doing, like, remote web design, tech support type of stuff. Additionally, I was able to, like, cut our expenses down, like, literally to the bone. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to get a small-business grant. And additionally, we weren't able to get any kind of unemployment at all.

Now, because most of my clients are people who are getting unemployment, once that money is gone, my money's gone, their money's gone. And for me right now in this region, that's it. The entire region is going to have a deeper impact over here, especially since this region is already super forgotten. And once the unemployment money's gone, once whatever else came from the CARES Act is gone, then there's going to be a really intense crunch on top of all of the lives lost, on top of all the trauma of there being a funeral, like, every single week or something like that. It's really, really bad.

FADEL: That's Catherine Imani. We also heard from Seth McPhail and Allegra Troiano.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.