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Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Expiring unemployment benefits affects thousands of Santa Barbara County residents

Posted By on Wed, Jul 29, 2020 at 3:50 PM

When the $600 weekly boost to unemployment benefits expires at the end of July, nearly 25,000 Santa Barbara County residents will lose assistance that’s been vital in their ability to pay rent and put food on their table, 2nd District Supervisor Gregg Hart said during a press conference on July 28.

Without that extra $600, the average county resident who qualifies for unemployment benefits will receive less than $1,350 a month, Hart said.

“It doesn’t take an economist to understand how difficult it is to pay rent and survive in Santa Barbara County on $1,350 a month when our housing costs are some of the highest in the state,” he said.

With the assistance running out, and COVID-19 continuing to spread in many parts of the country, Congress is working on a stimulus package that could potentially extend this unemployment benefit.

In May, the Democrat-led House of Representatives passed a bill that would have extended the weekly $600 through January 2021. Meanwhile, Republicans in the Senate released a proposal this week that would reduce the benefit amount to $200 a week.

On July 28, some California lawmakers outlined a proposal that would fill any potential gaps in the $600 federal unemployment benefits for state residents if Congress passed a smaller amount, Hart said.

“There is no more important work in the country right now than resolving this problem quickly,” Hart said.

Additional unemployment assistance is necessary for many local residents as the county remains on the state’s monitoring list for failing to meet specific criteria used to measure the spread of COVID-19. Being included on this list means that many county business sectors remain closed.

click to enlarge EXPIRING Weekly benefits for unemployed workers amid COVID-19 expire at the end of July. - IMAGE COURTESY OF THE CDC
  • EXPIRING Weekly benefits for unemployed workers amid COVID-19 expire at the end of July.
The county’s positivity rate of 9.4 percent continues to be higher than the 8 percent target the state set for its monitoring list. Additionally, the county is exceeding a metric based on case rate increases.

As of July 28, 5,931 county residents have tested positive for the virus and 333 cases remain active. Of these active cases, 80 people are hospitalized and 25 are in intensive care units, according to county data.

Hart said that through the county’s contact tracing efforts, public health officials have learned that the local spread of COVID-19 is through person-to-person transmission at home, work, or social gatherings. He encouraged residents to take the steps necessary to curb the spread of the virus.

“Until a vaccine is developed and is widely available, we have limited but effective tools available to slow the spread of the virus,” Hart said. “We all know what those tools are: Limit contacts with people outside of your household, wear face coverings, keep at least six feet of distance from others, and wash your hands frequently.”
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