Learning to Love Massive Unemployment Benefits

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Hundreds of people line up outside a Kentucky Career Center hoping to find assistance with their unemployment claim in Frankfort, Ky. June 18, 2020. (Bryan Woolston/Reuters)Why that $600 boost last year turned out okay.

NRPLUS MEMBER ARTICLE L ast year, as the pandemic was just striking the U.S., there was a minor kerfuffle over Congress’s plan to give the unemployed an extra $600 a week. Some Republicans initially assumed it was a drafting error, because it would give many laid-off workers more money than they’d made while working.

It was actually intentional. States’ unemployment systems run on creaky old technology, and they can’t quickly switch to complicated new formulas. When COVID-19 kicked a bunch of people out of work, the only way to boost their benefits — which normally replace only a fraction of their earnings — was to …

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