Essential Workers Are Making Less Than Those On Unemployment In Some States

Image via CONNECT

Essential workers feel it’s unfair people on unemployment are getting higher wages

Florida Unemployment has been nothing short of a nightmare. The website to apply for benefits, CONNECT, was unable to handle the influx of applicants who were laid off due to COVID-19. $77 million dollars was spent on the development of the website. And despite a few upgrades and a brand new website to assist new claimants — the application process continues to be sluggish.

Many Floridians found themselves in a predicament: Either wait weeks before being able to utilize CONNECT which, at the time of writing, is still down for maintenance. This included errors during the application process because some sections were suspended e.g., work search requirements — a stringent policy — courtesy of Rick Scott. Or they could take their chances in person. Hundreds in Hialeah risked contracting the coronavirus to fill out paper applications.

So when I came across an article, Essential Workers Are Making Less Money Than Those On Unemployment, and reflected on the unemployment process in Florida — I was surprised that people who worked minimum wage jobs would target unemployment. I think they would’ve changed their minds if they knew of the mess it has been. The CARES Act does apply relief for those unemployed (an extra $600 per week) on top of benefits. But Florida is a state with one of the worst unemployment benefits imaginable. Some people without the CARES Act would only receive $175 a week. And it’s not just Florida, but all over the United States. So while I certainly can understand their frustrations of only receiving $2 dollars [extra] an hour for hazard pay; targeting unemployment is misguided since it’s not a uniform system and not everyone is eligible.

The conversation should really center around accountability for employers who know their employees are at the highest risk

A counter-argument usually centers around families on unemployment not having to venture out too often and individuals being able to take advantage of the fact their situation can lead them to pursue more leisure activities (while not saving up which has been vexing to read).

In either scenario: they’re a lot less likely to be exposed to Sars-Cov-2 as opposed to people still employed.

Even with something like the ‘Hero Fund’, a bill proposed by Democrats which would give frontline pandemic workers up to $25,000 — it doesn’t apply pressure to employers to assess the risks their employees face.

Don’t get me wrong; I really think that it’s amazing to give workers some sort of protection and relief.

But it pales in comparison to the things employers get away with and will get away with.

Pandemic aside, we have to remember that as soon as the dust settles, employers will go back to what they do best. And that’s lobbying against higher wages.

If you feel unemployment is unfair now and you’re left out of the bill (if it passes); just wait until the higher ups start conducting business as usual and decides to restructure and kick people out despite them being on the frontline.

It’s bad enough employers regularly bust unions or make an example out anyone who so much as entertains the idea — they are always going to find a way to cut corners and skip out on paying better wages.

So while someone is trying to take care of their spouse and children by getting by on $775 a week; your corporation is finding out how they can wiggle their way out of paying you more for a hazard pay, or even a bonus which is something that is more realistic. The CEO will surely put more money into their pockets if and when life returns to normalcy.

Is unemployment combined with the CARES Act unfair to workers not receiving hazard pay?

Millions of any Americans will still have to find work after they’ve long exhausted their benefits and stimulus check and it’s a scary reality considering COVID-19 wiped out jobs which will never come back. Those who are still working now will have a job (despite others being pushed out). The end game might not be in anyone’s favor, but unemployment and most people on it is certainly not where the blame lies. And saying someone should’ve saved up, in attempt to create a superficial idea of financial literacy, comes down to individual responsibility. Shaming those people won’t work, however. Financial illertacity and a fear of missing out is a very real issue as some people do not have the foresight to plan ahead; but they will always exist, pandemic or otherwise. Education is a better way to help those who might not be making those best [financial] decisions. They’ll complain and you don’t have to listen to them if it’s clear they have no vested interest in being open to changing.

I do not want to dismiss the very real threat of COVID-19; it’s something everyone should keep in mind — no matter if they are working or traveling. I can’t say essential employees are wrong. It would be remiss of me not to consider they’re facing an unprecedented danger which can strike without warning; has no cure or effective treatment; and can be passed on to others by just being in close proximity and talking. It’s a scary thought. And with no cure on the horizon (despite what politicians are saying since no coronavirus has ever had a vaccine) — it feels like it’s only a matter of time before we see clusters of it no matter how many precautions workers take.

Employers need to act on their own accord and they can work in conjunction with bills like the Heroes Fund to help their employees with medical bills, student loans, or some other incentive other than $2.00 extra. I think that could incentivize more employers and employees to return to work as employers rethink their open-office layout and exercise extreme caution if we just have to live with COVID-19.

[Update April 27 2:07 a.m. Eastern Time]: 71% of American’s did not receive March Unemployment Benefits. Read more here.



Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Anthony Chin

Anthony Chin

Writer, music artist, political commentator, and amateur sports bettor from South Florida. Feel free to follow.