UPDATED 3:35 PM PT — Wednesday, March 25, 2020
Unemployment benefit claims in the U.S. have risen to historic levels as fear of the coronavirus continues to consume the country.
According to reports, these claims were on track to spike to 3.4 million in the third week of March. This would far surpass the highest level of weekly initial claims on record.
This analysis was just one glimpse of the severe economic downturn the nation is facing as a result of the pandemic and the measures being used to contain it. Many of these strict measures have shuttered businesses and prevented people from gathering in large crowds.
“I think we are putting a lot of hope that the system will return to business as usual in the coming weeks, and I just don’t believe that to be true,” stated unemployed worker Ian Smith.
However, Congress has been furiously negotiating a package to help businesses keep people on their payrolls and expand unemployment benefits for the American people. While the government has agreed to the $2 trillion fiscal stimulus package, many believe it is not enough and will come too late to prevent the damage done to the U.S. labor market.
“If banks are going to be able to be bailed out at a whim, if airlines and cruise ships are able to be bailed out on a whim, but the working class folks who are making this country run, who are literally on the front lines every day during this crisis, aren’t able to get even a substantial living wage through this bailout, then that’s really disappointing and upsetting,” reiterated Smith.
The rapid spread of the virus has led to massive business disruptions in the U.S. over the past several weeks. A growing number of cities across the country have ordered residents to self-quarantine, while non-essential businesses, such as sit-down restaurants and retail stores, have been forced to shut their doors.