Families unsure of what to do when unemployment benefits end

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"We have other bills that were based on what our past income was. We can't take that ten dollar an hour job."

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — The $600 weekly unemployment benefit is set to expire Friday (July 31).

This money has been a lifeline to many people around the country who lost their job due to the coronavirus pandemic, including families in Northwest Arkansas.

The benefit has gotten some criticism. State and federal lawmakers argue that it’s giving people a reason not to work because they’re making more money staying home than they were when they were employed. 

Christina Rogers-Cotten said her husband was laid off in May and started getting the $600 unemployment benefit soon after.

She said the money was helpful because even though she’s in the medical field, she works part time and is also a student. 

Her husband has applied to over 40 jobs since he’s been laid off but once the benefits stop, she doesn’t know what they’re going to do.

“Yes, you can take any old job, but that job could potentially be ten dollars an hour,” Rogers-Cotten said. “We have a home mortgage, we have a car payment, we have other bills that were based on what our past income was. We can’t take that ten dollar an hour job because that’s just not going to cover our expenses.”

Rogers-Cotten said while it’s important for her husband to get a job, there’s also the concern of getting out, catching the virus, and taking it to her vulnerable clients.

There’s been talk about a second stimulus payment, but so far nothing has been set in stone.

Mark Foster is the director of education for the nonprofit, Credit Counseling of Arkansas. He said in situations like this pandemic, it’s best to hope for the best and plan for the worst. 

He said once the $600 benefit stops, needs like housing, transportation, groceries are a few things that should be the top priority. Things like credit card and medical debt can probably wait, but pay the minimum if possible.

He also suggests creating a spending plan or revising an existing one that doesn’t include the unemployment benefit.

Finally, since it’s still unclear if or when a second stimulus payment is coming, do not spend the money in advance. But if it comes, really evaluate how you’re going to use it

“You need to take a step back and look at your financial situation,” Foster said. “What are my family’s needs? What do we need to accomplish? Do we need to build up our savings? Do we need to do this with that money, that with that money. So take a look at what are my needs?”

He also suggests talking to a financial expert. Contact Credit Counseling of Arkansas at 479) 521-8877 for guidance.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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