Unemployed fighting to stay afloat as extended COVID-19 benefits remain in limbo

Some argue the weekly $600 unemployment payment was too much, keeping people from going back to work. Meanwhile, with some industries unable to return to work, people try to make ends meet.
8:01 | 08/07/20

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Transcript for Unemployed fighting to stay afloat as extended COVID-19 benefits remain in limbo
packages are a sore spot. Janai Norman has the story. Reporter: Desiree didn't just lose one job, she lost three. A substitute teacher, she also worked as an actor and ran a small business doing face painting on the side. I've had several people insultingly say well, you're supposed to have an emergency fund. Okay. I did. I'm five months into my emergency fund. Reporter: She made it through on unemployment, in part helped by that $600 weekly bonus in federal aid. We have to pay electric, water, a mortgage, we have to pay that. Reporter: I have to ask about the save the $600 sign in the back. This is both an emotional and mental and everything. It's anguish in writing, a cry for help. Reporter: Now, a week after that emergency assistance expired, lawmakers are still locked in a stalemate, divided over a more permanent relief package, as millions of Americans navigate a cash-strapped new normal. We have enough to probably go for about a month and a half, two months. I'm frightened. I'm frightened about what's going to happen to so many families. We're not lazy, but we don't want to lose our homes. Reporter: Democrats blasting the administration and peers across the aisle saying there aren't enough jobs and people need help. Republicans want to apply just a band-aid. Reporter: Some rbs argue that $600 is too much. It's equal to a $15 hourly wage and some Republicans pointing out with this add benefit, some Americans are bringing in more money now than they would if they were working. Democrats can't exactly tell us why in the world that we ought to be spending literally billions of dollars that's not focussed on getting the economy opened up again. The people who lost their jobs and are drawing unemployment benefits have what economists would call a high marginal propensity to consume. Reporter: Lisa cook is a professor of economics. Consumer spending is about 70% of gdp. The entire economy could crash if we are not helping those people who have lost their jobs and are applying for unemployment insurance. Reporter: When the president signed the C.A.R.E.S act in March, a $600 bonus was given to people who were jobless. The $600 was added to the compensation from your state through July 31st. In New Jersey, where the maximum pay out is $713, you would receive as much as $1,314 every week. In Colorado, $1,218, and in Louisiana, $847. It's just too much. It disincentivizes people from working. That's going to slow our economic recovery. Reporter: Andy puzder wrote an op Ed. First of all, we need to help everybody who's been disadvantaged by the pandemic. The problem with the $600 bonus is that it was actually intended to discourage people from working. We didn't want people to get back into the economy. We wanted them to stay home, so we didn't overwhelm the medical system and see the disease spread. We're sort of through that phase We're still seeing cases rise in many places. What would you say to those folks who feel like they need that $600 weekly bonus and are afraid to go to work because they don't want to get sick. If you're afraid to go to work, if you're staying home and getting unemployment benefits, you should be fine. What we're talking about here is earning substantially more than you did before the pandemic forced staying home. Reporter: That is one thing you keep saying, the $600 weekly bonus is a disincentive to work, that is dissuading people from going out and working. What evidence do you have to back that up? We have about 30 million people on unemployment insurance in the United States and small businesses can't find workers, they can't find people to work. Usually when we advertise one opening we'll get 30 to 50 resumes within 24 hours, and we've received four since may 1st. It's hard to know exactly why that's happening. Reporter: Angelina Swanson feels torn. She's all for the $600 unemployment checks but she believes they've had an impact on her business. I think it's vital to keeping families fed and keeping them on their feet, and I also think it's causing problems for small businesses like mine in getting people back. Reporter: Since reopening her spa, she's been short staffed and struggling to find applicants. I do think it is because people are enjoying stimulus checks, and, you know, I'm sure there is a small fear of coming back in, interacting with the public and possibly being exposed to covid. That is probably true, that some are making more on unemployment. That is not deterring them taking a job. I mean, people aren't going to come out if they're sick, and they're not going to come out if they think they're going to get sick. Reporter: Scott was one of those Americans grateful for that extra $600 a week to help makends meet. It was a great lifeline for us to pay some bills that couldn't be reduced. There's a huge middle class sector, like us, that need that to, to get by. Reporter: We first met Scott in April, after he was laid off from his job at an online advertising company at the end of March, when coronavirus hit hard. I'd say we've, we've exhausted pretty much every option for assistance that we can. I'm at my next food bank, my second one for today. I'm looking through my books, going to divide it up. Reporter: Now without that $600 a week, they're looking at what possessions they can sell to get by. I went through my cameras. I have some antique ones and regular ones that I need to sell. Reporter: And rationing medication while waiting for insurance to come through. At least I've got some credit card payments deferred for the next month. Reporter: When do you think things are going to come to a head? Right now we have enough to last until the end of September. Reporter: What would you say to those who say that the $600 a week bonus is a disincentive to work? They're misinformed. Many people don't believe something until it actually happens to them. Reporter: As lawmakers leave Washington for summer recess, Desiree is left worrying about how to stay afloat. One of the things I did not anticipate during the pandemic was surgery, not for myself but for Callie here, tore muscles in her leg. Now I'm looking at a $3,700 bill that I just don't have the money for. It's very emotional for my, because I'm a proud person. And I've always been an extremely hard worker. I would almost say a workaholic. So, for me to have to reach out to people to raise money to get my dog surgery, it took a lot for me to do. Reporter: Do you feel like the politicians in Washington are essentially letting you down? Yes, I do. I mean, there's no easy answers. I don't blame the president for the virus. I don't blame the congress for the virus. Because at the end of the day, when we came out, we couldn't go back to our jobs. Because industries are lost. They are lost.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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