Unemployment benefits are the lifeline that help people pay for rent, food, and other basic needs, while they search for a new job. And with federal unemployment benefits set to expire this Labor Day, that lifeline will be cut short for many California workers and their families — pushing them off a financial cliff.
Ending federal unemployment benefits on Labor Day is not a race-neutral policy; it ignores the inequities in our recovery and exacerbates existing race and gender disparities at home and work, especially among Black Californians. Here’s what we know:
- Data Hit: Unemployment is twice as high for Black Californians than it is for white Californians due to inequitable jobs gains. The disparity in unemployment for Black workers has been around for decades and reflects discrimination and other barriers to work created through centuries of structural racism.
- Data Hit: Unemployment among Californians has stalled around 10% for the last six months. And with federal benefits expiring, around 2 million Californians will lose their benefits entirely and nearly 500,000 will have their benefits cut by $300 per week, making it much harder to meet basic needs.
- Fact Sheet: State unemployment benefits remain woefully inadequate when compared to the cost of living. For many workers — especially American Indian, Black, Latinx, and Pacific Islander Californians, and women — unemployment doesn’t even cover rent, leaving them in debt or at risk of eviction as they look for a new job.
Losing a job in California can be less devastating. In the weeks ahead, state policymakers should use the strong fiscal health of the state to increase unemployment benefits — especially for low-paid workers — to cover rent, food, and other basic needs while they search for work and provide for their families.