Stimulus in Limbo, but Not the Rent or Utility Bills

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The $211 she receives each week from the program plus some additional federal benefits have not been enough to keep her from falling behind on rent, and she owes her landlord $1,500. Waiting for Congress to make up its mind on the bill had been “terrifying,” she said.

“It’s the worst thing I could possibly imagine,” she said. “If you told me a year ago that the entire country would be suffering the way it is now, with no help from the government, I would have told you that would never happen. We live in America.”

More than 20 million Americans are collecting unemployment benefits and the unemployment rate stands at 6.7 percent. A year ago, before the pandemic hit, the jobless rate touched 3.5 percent, tying a 50-year low.

For those living on the edge, the recent political gamesmanship has been infuriating.

“We don’t have time for them to argue,” said Shannon Williams of Toledo, Ohio, who has lost two jobs to the pandemic. “Everybody needs help sometimes and right now, a lot of people need it.”

Many of the jobless can’t wait much longer for that help. Robert Van Sant’s unemployment benefits of $484 per week don’t cover his monthly expenses of $2,200 in rent, utilities, internet access, food and other necessities. But the additional federal money would ease the strain on his savings account, which he has been draining to make ends meet.

“I was really relieved” to hear that the legislation had passed, said Mr. Van Sant, 51, who was furloughed from his job as a bartender in Chicago. “It would have meant I could go to the grocery store and actually buy some food that I really want instead of eating beans and bread and bologna.”

Mr. Van Sant’s future is tied to the fate of he stimulus bill. Without the aid, he said he would have to move back to his hometown Bettendorf, Iowa, where the cost of living is lower. “It just saddens me. I’ve worked my whole life to live in the city, and everything that comes with it,” he said.

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