How Great Is Trump's Economy? It's 'Ten Hour Line To See A Human About Unemployment' Great!
The weekly unemployment report is out again, showing that another 1.5 million Americans filed new claims for unemployment last week. That's 58,000 fewer new claims than the week before, so hooray for our bustling economy! Just ignore that before the coronavirus shutdown, unemployment claims in February were around 200,000 a week. At least we used that time to ramp up our readiness to deal with the pandemic! Or we could have!
The Lexington Herald-Leader brings us one snapshot of how the continuing unemployment crisis is playing out. In Frankfort, Kentucky, the state unemployment office, moved by protests at the Governor's Mansion on Tuesday, set up a temporary service center to help process claims. After word spread online Tuesday that actual human beings were available at the temporary in-person help site, people drove from all over the state for a chance to fix claims that in some cases have been snarled since March. Yes, March.
And no, Republicans in Washington are in no hurry to extend emergency unemployment benefits, because won't that just make people lazy? Clearly, you'd have to be really lazy to stand in line for hours on a June day to try to fix a months-long unemployment screwup.
How long were the lines in Frankfort yesterday? People started showing up a bit after 5 a.m., and at 9 a.m., state police closed off the line for the day, since there was no chance the unemployment officials would be able to see more by the close of business. Even so, not everyone in line when it was shut down was able to see anyone; about 20 people who'd waited almost 10 hours were turned away when the building was closed at 6:30 p.m.
Herald-Leader reporter Daniel Desrochers took some special-effects video of the line, when state police estimated — optimistically — that the wait would be about eight hours:
The state police said it will be an 8 hour wait from the back of the line to speak to a state employee about unempl… https://t.co/9V2yMbtQ1q— Daniel Desrochers (@Daniel Desrochers)1592402351.0
It didn't really move that fast. Both Tuesday and Wednesday, after the line was cut off, the remaining folks in line queued up to give their names and phone numbers to unemployment office workers, so they could be called back. Folks who left a number and came back Wednesday said they hadn't gotten a call Tuesday, but hadn't really expected to, either. And remember, those who got to stand in line for hours and hours to see an actual person were the lucky ones.
Angela Hazlett and her fiancé, Jessie Krzyzewski, heard the state was seeing people Tuesday. They left their home in Benton and drove four hours to Frankfort, but didn't arrive before the line was shut down around 4:30 Tuesday. All they could do was leave Krzyzewski's name and number with unemployment staffers. After deciding against getting a hotel in Frankfort because they had a dog with them, Hazlett and Krzyzewski drove the four hours back to Benton Tuesday night.
They barely slept and hit the road again Wednesday morning, around five. By the time they arrived at the Capitol, the line had been cut off again. [...]
Krzyzewski has been trying to get unemployment since March.
The Herald-Leader notes that even though the state has finally processed roughly 95 percent of the more than 850,000 unemployment claims filed since March, that still leaves
7,500 outstanding claims from March, 27,000 from April and 17,000 from May, state officials said Tuesday.
Those numbers also don't include people who have received some money, but then stopped getting payments.
Gov. Andy Beshear (D) took responsibility for the snarls, because that's what you do.
"Our communication has not been good. It has not," Beshear said Wednesday. "It's not been where it should be, these are our citizens, these are my people and we should have done better. I'll take that blame."
The temporary help desk will continue operating today and tomorrow, with separate lines being set up to give priority to people whose claims have been outstanding the longest. Today's special line will be for those who filed in March, and Friday's for those who filed in April or May.
Back in Washington yesterday, Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell called again on Congress to extend emergency unemployment benefits. In testimony to the House Financial Services Committee, Powell said we're not out of the woods, so let's not throw away our (Interactive feature: add metaphorical wilderness equipment of your choice) just yet, please:
It probably is going to be important that it be continued in some form. I wouldn't say what form, but you wouldn't want to go all the way to zero on that. [...]
It's important to just keep in mind that some of the jobs are not coming back soon. [...] They are going to have a hard time finding a job, so I think [it's] better to keep them in their apartment, better to keep them paying their bills.
This seems like a good place to mention that extended unemployment benefits are already in the new economic stimulus bill the House passed just over a month ago. It's not clear whether the Senate will actually do another round of stimmy, or whether Mitch McConnell is still married to his demand that companies be shielded from liability for making employees sick. Bloomberg reports that the White House may propose a new stimmy in the form of an infrastructure spending bill, if only so Donald Trump can sit in the cab of another big truck, vroom! vroom!
Or maybe he'll just go hug some cops again. He likes that too.
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