Why Millions of US Workers Aren’t Collecting Unemployment During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Why Millions of US Workers Aren’t Collecting Unemployment During the COVID-19 Pandemic by  for Activist Post

Before COVID-19, Annie Frodeman held two-part time jobs, one as a ramp agent for Piedmont Airlines in Burlington and another registering ER patients at the University of Vermont Medical Center.

She often worked more than 40 hours a week, but her hours dried up once the pandemic struck. First, she was furloughed by the airline; then she saw her hours at the hospital cut to a single shift.

“Last week I didn’t get anything,” she recently told The New York Times.

The COVID-19 pandemic has been hard on everyone—well, almost everyone—but it has perhaps been hardest on part-time workers. Unlike full-time workers, part-time workers often are not eligible to receive state unemployment benefits.

When they are eligible, they often have to navigate a regulatory labyrinth to find out if they are eligible and then begin receiving benefits.

“Most states have specific rules regarding part-time availability that add barriers to Unemployment Insurance eligibility,” says a report by the National Employment Law Project. “Limitations on overall work hours, times of day, or days of the week imposed by health, disabilities, caregiving responsibilities, or other factors can prevent claimants from receiving UI benefits in any state.”

Frodeman was one of an untold number of Americans who haven’t received an unemployment check. In May, she applied for federal benefits through the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance initiative—a program designed specifically for freelancers, part-timers, and gig workers who last work during the crisis—but so far has not had any luck.

The program has been plagued by abuse and fraud. Last week, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan announced the state had uncovered a criminal enterprise involving 47,500 fraudulent unemployment claims totaling more than $500 million.

Fortunately, the Times reports, Frodeman is back to work part-time at the airline that furloughed her months before.

Prior to the pandemic, about 28 million Americans worked part-time jobs. For many of these individuals, working part-time is a preference.

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