Thousands in Connecticut Affected As Unemployment Benefit Expires

Lawmakers failed to reach a deal to extend unemployment benefits for millions of Americans.

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The short-term $600 weekly unemployment benefit that has helped keep American families and the economy afloat during the COVID-19 pandemic expired on Friday.

Lawmakers failed to reach a deal extending the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation, or FPUC.

According to the state Department of Labor, more than 188,000 people are currently unemployed in Connecticut. Thousands will be impacted by the loss of the extra $600 a week.

"Uncertainty," said Jon Bayer, who has been out of work since March.

Bayer works at Foxwoods Casino, but he has not been brought back to work yet. He is not sure if or when he will be brought back to work.

“Unfortunately it is not like I can just go to another casino because none of them are hiring. They are all going through the same thing nationwide so there’s hundreds and thousands of us across the country that are out of work and there is no relief in sight," Bayer said.

Bayer's mother, Rommy Boissevain, died from COVID-19 in May. He said this time has been especially difficult on him and his family. The extra $600 has been helpful.

"Losing her has been devastating for me and the family and it kind of just leaves me more up in the air with the future not having my mom or a job," said Bayer. "Without it, it is going to be very difficult."

Christine Mathes is in a similar situation. She has been on furlough since March. She works in the skincare industry, selling products for facials, which are not allowed in the state right now. Mathes said that the extra $600 per week has been a lifesaver.

"I won't be able to make ends meet. There is no way," said Mathes. "I always keep saying that I would love to go back to my former life. I really miss it so much."

Friday, U.S. Senators Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy, both of whom are Democrats, held a press conference calling for the U.S. Senate to immediately pass an extension for enhanced unemployment insurance during the pandemic.

The highest unemployment rate across the state is in the City of Norwich at 19%. Rob Dempsky, who lives in Norwich, has been out of work since March. Before the pandemic, he was working as a poker dealer at Mohegan Sun. While he has received the extra benefits, he does not believe that the federal government should extend the benefit.

"It is money that we don't have that is being spent and we just, we can't sustain that," said Dempsky.

The Connecticut Department of Labor website says people who have been receiving the $600 benefit should continue to file their weekly certification to avoid a stop in base state or federal benefits. If a new federal benefit law is passed, the new amount will be automatically added to the base benefit when the state Department of Labor reprograms the system.

If the federal law includes retroactive payments, they will be provided in a separate payment, according to the state Department of Labor.

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