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Into the End of the $600 Unemployment Check

Should Americans be making more on unemployment than they were working?

About this episode:

Last week, many Americans got their last $600 unemployment check from the federal government. In Washington, Congress is at odds over whether to extend those benefits.

Meanwhile, unemployed Americans are now struggling to make do with less. According to an early study from the University of Chicago, two out of every three people qualified to receive the $600 extra would make more money unemployed than at their regular jobs. In Stockton, California, a chef named Selena Pollack was one of those people. While collecting unemployment, she was able to provide for her family and pay off debt. But, Coronavirus cases in that county, San Joaquin, are currently some of the highest in the country, and without federal assistance, she doesn’t have enough money to pay her bills.

Michael Tubbs, the Mayor of Stockton, argues this reveals how little we value work in this country. And he wants to change that. In January 2019, Tubbs started a pilot program guaranteeing a basic income to some Stockton residents. 125 people started receiving $500 a month, no strings attached. In the pandemic, that support has been more critical than ever. He thinks other cities could follow suit.

Trymaine Lee talks with Selena Pollack about what it’s like to be jobless during this pandemic. And we hear from Mayor Tubbs who says now is the time to rethink what it means to make a living wage in America.

Find the transcript here.

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