NECC Observer

The student news website of Northern Essex Community College, Haverhill and Lawrence, Mass.

Federal pandemic unemployment assistance to expire soon

The discontinuance of the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance is set to leave many unemployed people without financial aid.

Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) is a program under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, also known as the CARES Act, which is a $2.2 trillion economic stimulus bill passed by U.S. Congress and signed into law on March 27, 2020 in response to the economic calamity due to the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States.

The CARES Act, which created the PUA program, specifies that the last payable week of PUA benefits will be the week ending December 26, 2020. Even if you have a balance of PUA benefits, or owed weeks beyond December 26, these benefits cannot be paid after that date., meaning that by the end of December, more than 13 million unemployed people will be without financial aid.

Ian Shea, an NECC student said, “I think it’s sad that there’s even a debate about whether or not to help citizens in need. People need help right now. If citizens cannot afford their bills, their rent, their mortgage, or groceries, they will be out on the streets. If people cannot afford their own necessities, they are certainly not going to be able to spend money at local stores or restaurants and that hurts the entire community. There is a ripple effect and I wish more people opposing extending aid understood that.”

Jacqueline Dick, a professor of public health at NECC, gave her expert opinion on how the withholding of Federal PUA affect those in Lawrence both in the short term and long term, “The results will be multifaceted and have short and long term perhaps traumatic effects on the residents of Lawrence. Some of the things that come to mind are closing of small businesses, eviction and loss of housing, individuals going to work sick because they feel they have no choice. There will also be extra demands on Federal programs such as WIC and SNAP (Food Stamps). Losing jobs may lead to losing health insurance for some and as winter sets in more people will need fuel assistance – the list goes on. It will take a long time to recover from this socio economic loss and scarring will be deep.”