Why the $600 coronavirus unemployment bonus is a rip-off for Californians

Why the $600 coronavirus unemployment bonus is a rip-off for Californians

Estimated California weekly benefit? $937 a week.

I know folks in financial stress should be thankful for any gift, but the much-heralded $600 unemployment “bonus” from Uncle Sam is a relative rip-off for most Californians.

Why? The one-size-fits-most formula is part of $2 trillion spent on various stimulus plans, but it cuts short states with pricier cost of living.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m sure the money is helping ease some of the economic pain brought by the pandemic and subsequent business shutdowns. But let my trusty spreadsheet show you how it unevenly it helps the jobless, depending on where they live and how much it costs to live in various towns.

Using federal stats on household spending and size, I created a measurement of weekly average family expenses. By this math, only four states have bigger spenders than Californians at $2,667 per week. Tops? Hawaii at $2,824, then New Jersey at $2,740; Alaska at $2,709 and Massachusetts at $2,674. Lowest? Mississippi at $1,562 then Arkansas at $1,648 and Alabama at $1,658.

Next, look at what a typical unemployment check might be. I took federal data on average unemployment benefits paid in March, then added the $600 nationwide “stimulus” tacked on by congressional action.

By this math, a jobless Californian can expect $937 in weekly benefits. (By the way, 30 states paid more.) Why? California’s earliest layoffs came in tourism-related industries, often filled with lower-income workers.

The biggest benefits were seen in Massachusetts at $1,157, then Hawaii at $1,143 and North Dakota at $1,081. Smallest jobless checks? Louisiana at $811, then Mississippi at $812 and Arizona at $834. Oh, the 50-state median? $953.

So how far do these typical jobless benefits go toward paying an average family’s bills? Keep in mind, the $600 “bonus” was based on a philosophy that this part of the stimulus program should loosely translate to temporary full pay for a typical out-of-work American during this economic emergency.

Source: Mercury News

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