As Unemployment Benefits End in 26 States, the Movement for Economic Justice Shifts to Long-Term Solutions

Only through universal policies like increased unemployment benefits and guaranteed income will women, low-income people and people of color be able to recover from the pandemic and reach their full potential.

8/4/2021 2:25:00 AM

It’s time for the U.S. to build an economy that works for everyone and levels the playing field. Instituting new federal policies with economic equality at the center—like guaranteed income—are a stepping stone to this reality.

Only through universal policies like increased unemployment benefits and guaranteed income will women, low-income people and people of color be able to recover from the pandemic and reach their full potential.

(Art by Brandi Phipps)Tia, explained:“I know people say that if you have programs like these, people will stop working. I don’t personally understand that—I mean, I think it’s fine if someone made that choice, but for me I’ll always want to be working, I want to be adding to my money, not decreasing it. It’s not about not working; it’s about just being able to take a little time off—to take a week and spend it with your kids, then go back to work. I wasn’t able to do that before, to have that time off without being worried about covering the bills.”

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“It’s been hard,” saidSabrina, another MMT mother. “I’m not used to not working and being at the house. And obviously it’s also hard because of the income loss. Unemployment helped me sustain. But now the governor just announced that Mississippi is going to cut us off from extra unemployment benefits so I’ll be losing that $300 a week. It will be tough.” 

MMT motherNikkirelies on federal aid because of a disability, but she used to work in child care. “I really, really miss working,” she said. “It’s hard. I miss my babies—the ones I used to take care of. You fall in love with these kids spending so much time with them.” headtopics.com

Nikki (left) and Sabrina (right), two mothers enrolled in the Magnolia Mother’s Trust, which each year provides more than 100 Black mothers living in extreme poverty in Jackson, Miss., a guaranteed income of $1,000 a month for a year. (Art by Brandi Phipps)

These moms aren’t on “the sidelines” refusing to work; they all have goals for themselves and their families. Sabrina plans to study nursing, buy her own home and send her son to a school for kids with dyslexia. Tia was able to move out of subsidized housing. And Ebony is working to open her own nail salon business and buy a home. 

“Invest in yourself,”she advised the other MMT mothers. “That can be anything—it doesn’t have to be starting a business—it could be self-care or learning something new. But you’re the most important investment you can make.”Unemployment benefits are already difficult to access—after waiting for a month, Ebony was only able to receive the benefits she was owed because she happened to do the nails of a woman who worked intake at the state unemployment department. 

Instead of cutting access to COVID benefits, now is the chance to expand and solidify them into permanent policy. Only through universal policies like increased unemployment benefits,and guaranteed income can the U.S create an economic model that works in a post-pandemic world and allows women, low-income people and people to recover and reach their full potential. headtopics.com

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