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Nonprofit And State Look To Help As $600 A Week Unemployment Benefit Ends

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More than two million unemployed Californians rely on the extra $600 a week provided under the federal CARES Act. Now that it's ending, nonprofits and the state look to help fill the gap.

Speaker 1: 00:00 Lawmakers in Washington, continue to argue as unemployed San Diego continue to worry. The $600 extra payment from the federal government to augment weekly. Unemployment checks officially ends today. A second federal stimulus packages in the works, but Democrats and Republicans are split about priorities. And the deal is still up in the air support is said to be growing among Democrats in the California legislature to dip into a federal trust fund supplied to the state and have the state continue. The $600 unemployment supplement. If the federal government remains in a stalemate here's San Diego assembly, woman, Lorena Gonzalez on what she believes is at stake. If the $600 supplement ends, we're going to end up with them at huge housing crisis, um, mortgage crisis, as well as a renter's eviction crisis. We're going to end up with people basically starving to death. I mean, it's not tenable.

Speaker 1: 00:57 All of this goes on as the reopening of San Diego has been put on hold and unemployment is once again, increasing joining me are two San Diego ones here to talk about the real impact of losing that extra $600 in unemployment benefits. First, we welcome Patrick Ridgewell he's a professional stagehand. He sets up audio and visual elements for events primarily at the San Diego convention center. And Patrick, thanks so much for joining us. Welcome to the program. Hello and good morning. Now I understand that you've been out of work since March when the pandemic first hit. Can you talk to me about your line of work and how it's been affected

Speaker 2: 01:37 In the entertainment industry? We do mostly conventions as well as theater, as well as like concerts and at the, uh, middle of March, right around the 11th of March, they, uh, told us no mass meetings, so that shut our industry down the convention center shut itself down. And we have no job to go to now because that's where our work is at.

Speaker 1: 02:04 Now, without this additional money from the federal government, how much would you be getting an unemployed?

Speaker 2: 02:10 I would get a total of $450 a week, which $50 of that goes to taxes that totals out to about $1,600 a month. My rent alone is $1,400 a month. So it's really just paying my rent and maybe a little bit of food at the, at the $400 that I get out of it. With the 600, I'm able to pay my rent, I'm able to pay my electric bill. I'm able to pay my car payment and my car insurance. And I'm just me. There's a lot of bus stagehands that have families to feed on that

Speaker 1: 02:51 You see as your best option. If this benefit isn't continued

Speaker 2: 02:55 Well, if this benefit isn't continued, I will have to start thinking about taking away from my retirement fund. I will, you know, probably have to take away from it to stay alive. Cause I don't want to be homeless. And I, you know, I'm 63 years old. It's a little late to start looking for another line of work when I'm just so close to retirement, as it is every day that I don't work, I'm losing money into my retirement, which is my incentive to really keep working as much as possible, especially at 63.

Speaker 1: 03:30 Yeah. You know, we've heard news stories about people who don't want to go back to work because they're making more money on unemployment with that additional federal benefit than they would be by going back to work. Is that the case for you? Do you make more money on unemployment?

Speaker 2: 03:45 No, I do not. I make a lot more money working than I do on unemployment. Even with the $600, the $600 just keeps me to where I can live without having to go into debt. If I just buy what I need, my food pay my bills as they are. I don't go anywhere because of the pandemic. Of course. Yeah.

Speaker 1: 04:06 The people in Washington seemed to be talking about perhaps continuing the federal benefit, but decreasing it. How would that impact you?

Speaker 2: 04:15 You'll be, it'll be less money. I'll have to, uh, find a way to survive. Like I say, the only thing I can think of is to either go in debt, take away from my retirement, which will make me have to work longer, you know, into my retirement years, which as I'm getting older, it's a lot harder to do. And our work is gone. There's no convention center doesn't have any shows until December. They have two shows in December that are scheduled right now. All the other events are canceled. Sports arena has canceled all their shows all the way through till March, 2021. And if I'm not mistaken, all the theaters are shut down until at least January. And then they're going to go from there. If the pandemics kill continues, we're still not going to have work to go back to cause they aren't going to allow large groups to gather. And that's what we do is large groups that gather.

Speaker 1: 05:11 Now I'd like to bring in Nunziata Daniella into the conversation she owns and operates a cafe in downtown San Diego called Altea throw panini, grill and nuncio. Welcome to the program. Good morning. Thank you for having us. You you're a presently at the grill as you speak to us, is that correct?

Speaker 3: 05:31 Um, we, uh, resumed operations a couple of months ago and uh, we are, uh, struggling until the regular work for the offices around us resumed. We will not see any improvements. We are located in the business district of downtown San Diego on third and eight

Speaker 1: 05:53 Now because of the pandemic, unemployment benefits were extended to business owners. And you also got that supplemental additional benefit from the federal government that's ending. Now, how has that additional money helped you and your business?

Speaker 3: 06:08 The additional money as basically kept us in business. We are able to keep our doors open, buy groceries and paper supplies and pay the essentials. Everything that makes a restaurant run that are things, a regular bills that just don't go away with the doors closed or her open. They're still there. No.

Speaker 1: 06:29 Yeah. Talk to me about the ripple effect. It, I mean, if you no longer get this additional unemployment money, who else would be impacted?

Speaker 3: 06:39 My direct family, my employees have been impacted. My landlord will be impacted. My business land or landlord has been impacted. Everybody like creditors, nobody gets paid. The grease truck guy doesn't get paid as, did you need those and get paid name it. There are no oil changes, basic things that you will need in order to continue living. This is how people end up homeless. Basically.

Speaker 1: 07:10 I'll ask you both a final question. What would your message be to lawmakers who are hesitant about extending the $600 supplement? Because it increases the national debt and it may decrease. People's incentive to go back to work. Nausea. Let me start with you. What's your message.

Speaker 3: 07:30 Messages to continue giving the extra $600. I agree that maybe some people are earning more than they would at a regular job. And I'm not sure if there is a way to figure out who's making what and who deserves or can use the six extra $600 instead of giving it to everybody.

Speaker 1: 07:56 Patrick, what would be your message to lawmakers?

Speaker 2: 07:59 My message is this is a lifeline to a lot of families. Without this. These families are going to be homeless. They're going to have nowhere to go, no way to feed their families. I would be happy to go back to work tomorrow. Believe me, if my job was ready, I'm ready to go. And I know that most of the people that I normally work with, we keep in contact with each other and we try to, you know, reach out to each other. And this is what's kept everybody from going literally crazy. As far as you know, we're trying to just stay patient, stay calm, do the right thing. Stay home. If we don't have a job to go to, how is it bad giving us a lifeline? We need this money to stay alive and above water. Otherwise you're going to have a whole lot of homeless people that are angry.

Speaker 1: 08:48 I want to thank my guests, Patrick Bridgewell and nuncio. Daniela, thank you so much for joining us. I really do appreciate you sharing your experience and sharing your thoughts. Thanks a lot.

Speaker 2: 08:58 Thank you.

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Maureen Cavanaugh and Jade Hindmon host KPBS Midday Edition, a daily radio news magazine keeping San Diego in the know on everything from politics to the arts.