Extra $600 weekly unemployment benefits set to expire creates even more uncertainty for Southern Californians

Many Southern Californians are likely wondering how they will make ends meet now that the extra $600 a week in jobless benefits Congress provided as part of the federal government's coronavirus relief efforts is set to expire.
Many Southern Californians are likely wondering how they will make ends meet now that the extra $600 a week in jobless benefits Congress provided as part of the federal government's coronavirus relief efforts is set to expire.

Barring an extension from Congress, the extra benefits will expire at the end of the week. Lawmakers have been debating what to do with this federal benefit. Republicans have argued that the padded payment has encouraged laid-off workers to remain on unemployment.

Both Republicans and Democrats have indicated that they support extending the benefit at a lower rate, but it appears Congress is unlikely to pass an extension before the end of the month.

RELATED: EDD complaints still pouring in as $600 benefit ends this week

The economy's recovery has shown signs of stalling amid a resurgence of COVID-19. The number of laid-off workers seeking jobless benefits rose last week for the first time since March, while the number of U.S. infections shot past 4 million - with many more cases undetected.

A report Thursday that the tally of American workers applying for unemployment benefits rose last week by 109,000 to a little more than 1.4 million broke a stretch of 15 straight weeks of improvements. All told, the Labor Department said Thursday that roughly 32 million people are receiving unemployment benefits.

The rise in unemployment comes as coronavirus counts continue to rise across much of the southern United States, leading to more business closures.

RELATED: 1.4M more sought unemployment aid, first increase since March

A representative with the California Employment Development Department answered viewer-submitted questions during an interview with Eyewitness News on Wednesday.

"For weeks of unemployment starting next week and beyond, those are the weeks we will no longer be able to add those $600, unless Congress comes back and decides to extend that program," said Loree Levy, deputy director for public affairs at California's EDD.

More than 4 million Californians received unemployment benefits over the last four weeks.

With such high numbers, many people with questions about their benefits are having trouble getting through to the state Employment Development Department. Many report extraordinarily long wait times to reach someone by phone - only to talk to a new hire who can't answer the question.

For answers to some of your most pressing unemployment benefits questions, watch Levy's full interview here.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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