Federal pandemic unemployment benefits ended on Labor Day, cutting off weekly payments to more than 300,000 people in Illinois alone.
Meanwhile, federal data shows the unemployment rate in Illinois is one of the highest in the nation at 7.2%, reported in July.
“The Latinx community was really affected by the pandemic and although we might have some number of people who are undocumented, there is also a large number of maybe single-parent families that will be affected by this change,” said Clelia Ferro, Program Director for Chicago Cook Workforce Partnership.
Laura Garza, who serves as Worker Center Director at Arise Chicago, says many of the community members they work with were unable to access these benefits in the first place.
“Unemployment is there to catch you when you really need it, to sustain your families knowing it’s not long term,” Garza said. “But Latinos were not able to access that if they did not have documents, so they had to figure out a way to feed their families, to keep their households going.”
Ferro says people are hesitant to return to the workforce due to COVID-19 safety concerns.
“We have people that are afraid,” Ferro said. “This past year and a half changed a lot of lives. We have individuals who were affected by deaths among family members ... and asking ‘are my kids going to be sick?’”
According to Ferro, what she’s seen from working different job fairs is a large demand for workers. Many employers have been increasing their pay and offering bonuses to draw people back to work.
“I always tell people this is a great time to negotiate better pay, to negotiate a career path,” Ferro said. “We know that there's a big demand for employers still looking for people.”
Garza believes that at the end of the day, people are putting their safety and the health of their families first.
“I think that is crucial to remember,” Garza said. “The other thing is that it’s about time these employers are actually paying more money ... they should’ve done that a long time ago.”
Contact Acacia Hernandez: (773) 509-5518 | [email protected]