HOUSTON - Unemployment benefits that added $600 a week for unemployed Americans are ending while lawmakers consider how to move forward.
The extra $600 dollars, a week, provided by the CARES Act for the nation's millions of unemployed workers, will stop, starting Saturday. While lawmakers debate what to do next, those who are still out of work are worrying about the same thing.
The Texas Tribune has been charting the state's unemployment numbers, and reports more than 1.6 million Texans will lose the $600 addition to their benefits.
Many insist the money did a lot of good.
Bruce Zurbuchen is among them. The naval architect was working in the offshore oil-and-gas business until his employer closed the doors. Still recovering from a similar layoff, four years ago, Zurbuchen has trimmed all the extras from the budget and says the unemployment benefits, along with the extra $600 a week, was vital to his family.
"If we didn't have it, I would probably be selling my house, because I can't afford to live here," says Zurbuchen, "With just the regular unemployment, we would have eaten up our savings."
Finding the balance between how much help is enough, versus too much, has been a challenge. Some area employers have reported hiring troubles, because would-be workers complained they made more from government benefits, than from earning a paycheck.
In June, Spring Tavern owner Rodney Holder told us about one job applicant. "He's making a thousand dollars a week, on employment," says Holder, "Why would he come back to work as a bartender? He's making more now."
Economists at the University of Chicago estimate that more than two-thirds of workers getting unemployment assistance made more in jobless benefits than they did at work. Sometimes a lot more, but local observers say it's an expense that can't be avoided, even though it complicates the future.
"We want to support people who are out of work, there's no argument about that," says RIA Advisors economist Lance Roberts, "There's a real need to supply some additional stimulus, at this point, but what government fails to do when we get out of these problems, is to rebuild the surplus for the next emergency."
Roberts says the stimulus has done well to help the economy, and he expects lawmakers will approve another lump-sum payment to families and added unemployment benefits of $400 to $500 a month.