ROCKFORD (WREX) — If you've been getting unemployment benefits since March, your check will soon be smaller. That was all part of the federal coronavirus response, but on Friday that program expired.
When employers sent workers home to stop the spread of COVID-19, Congress passed the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) program as part of the CARES Act.
"An extra layer of benefits for individuals," Rockford investment advisor and the managing director of Tuneberg Asset Management Chad Tuneberg explained.
That benefit was an extra $600 a week, which, added to the current payout in Illinois, equaled a total of $1,084 a week through July 31.
"It was a way to help people who lost their jobs, through no fault of their own, and also to put money in the economy to encourage spending to keep the economy afloat," Dr. Carl Campbell, the Economics Chair at Northern Illinois University, said.
But Congress couldn't come to terms on a new stimulus package and the $600 addition will stop.
"Individuals who find themselves in the predicament and relying on this source of income to meet their expenses, may find themselves in a pickle soon," Tuneberg said.
Some of those people may have already ended up with Christopher Greenwood at the Rock River Homeless Coalition.
"Yes, we have seen an increase in the number of people coming into our office seeking service," Greenwood explained.
Tuneberg added, if we're not careful, this could spell serious trouble for Rockford, both in the short-term and the long-term.
"We may see individuals actually migrate out of the area to areas of the country that may have jobs," Tuneberg said.
But while Tuneberg said that's a legitimate concern, there's also another argument at play.
"A lot of the people, actually two-thirds of the people who are unemployed, are actually earning more on their unemployment benefits then they would on their job," Dr. Campbell explained.
That's been a major critique of the program, one even Tuneberg has heard from businesses locally. He said some businesses have gone to drastic measures.
"I have seen businesses that have given some perks to employees to come back to work," Tuneberg said.
It's a contentious, and at times political, conversation of trying to find a balance between working and health, especially during a global pandemic. But for the moment, Congress has left Washington without a new deal in sight.
Both Tuneberg and Dr. Campbell want to remind us, each stimulus deal adds more to our national debt. They say it's something our kids, our grand-kids, and our great-grand-kids will be paying back.