It’s been a rough few months for Chelsie Caudle. The mother of two has run into delays applying for unemployment and food stamps in Portland, Oregon, after Grace Salon, a hair salon that specializes in cutting and coloring, was forced to shutter in March when the coronavirus pandemic hit.
Caudle, who is self-employed, sublet a spot at Grace Salon to run her own business called Benjamin LLC. But with no income coming in for months, bills piled up, making it hard for her to afford groceries for her family, she says. “I’m panicked. I’ve run through my entire savings,” says Caudle, who returned to work a few weeks ago. But she has put in fewer hours with less clients due to social-distancing measures. “If the state shuts down the salon again, I don’t know what I’ll do,” says Caudle, 35..
Across the country, Sarah Walker, 31, was more fortunate. She and her husband, who live in Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania, have cut down on their daycare and driving expenses during the pandemic since they’re both working from home, saving her family nearly $2,000 a month. That’s helped them stash more money away in their retirement accounts.
“As soon as our expenses were cut, I immediately started saving more,” says Walker, who’s a senior credit and collections specialist at a cement manufacturer. Her husband works with children in youth services. The coronavirus recession has split America in two: those who are still financially intact, and others facing lasting scars.
Congress is set to reconvene this week at a critical juncture following a two-week recess as the $600 weekly unemployment benefits under the CARES Act are set to expire at the end of the month. Policymakers will debate whether more emergency stimulus checks and extra unemployment payments are needed to keep jobless people afloat as workers and businesses continue to grapple with the economic fallout of the pandemic. More than two-thirds of Americans say they still need a second stimulus check from the government to help make ends meet, according to recent data from tax preparer Jackson-Hewitt. And about a third of that group said the $1,200 checks needed to be more than the previous round. Only about a quarter of them say they wouldn’t need another emergency payment.
“Another round of stimulus is badly needed,” says Gregory Daco, chief U.S. economist of Oxford Economics. The expiring of enhanced unemployment benefits could represent a “severe shock” to people’s income since another potential round of stimulus checks likely won’t be as large as they previously were, he added.