Families prepare as $600 unemployment benefit expires


ROCKFORD, Mich. (WOOD) — For families receiving unemployment benefits during the COVID-19 pandemic, the extra $600 from the federal government will be sorely missed as it is set to expire on Friday.

Congress is debating on how it should extend the relief aid.

Michael Perry said his family has come to rely on this extra money while he frantically searches for a new job after getting laid off in March. 

“You wake up every morning just sick to your stomach,” Perry said. “You’re trying to find a job, but in this environment right now, with COVID(-19) and the shutdowns, it’s hard.” 

The Rockford father of three said this is uncharted territory for him as he’s had a job since he was a teenager.  

Perry spent most of his adult career in law enforcement, working 14 years with the Michigan State Police in the Commercial Vehicle Enforcement Division. 

In 2019, Perry took a job in the private sector, specializing in commercial vehicle safety for a Grand Rapids trucking company. 

Then the COVID-19 pandemic hit. He was laid off and his position was terminated due to downsizing.  

Unable to survive on his wife’s teacher salary, the Perry’s filed for unemployment, receiving roughly $900 a week in benefits — the bulk of which comes from the $600 benefit boost from the federal government.  

Perry says it’s just enough to make it by.

“It meant that we’ve been able to make our house payment, been able to pay our bills and put food on the table,” Perry said

Meanwhile, Perry’s job has been finding a job. But not everyone receiving unemployment shares his same work ethic. Local job placement agencies say they have hundreds of open jobs, but few people to fill them, seeing the $600 weekly bonus as part of the blame.

But for others, it’s survival money they’re relying on as they frantically search for their next job.

“ … to find yourself in this position — I’ve got a family to take care of and I’m looking at a job making less money than I did almost 20 years ago,” Perry said.

Perry says he’s open to just about any employment opportunity at this point, but says openings offered by local job placement agencies aren’t always able to provide the benefits his family needs. 

“The goal is to get a job. We need benefits. We can’t afford the benefits at my work, not on this kind of income,” Perry’s wife, Lisa said.

The Small Business Association of Michigan weighed in on how the federal supplement expiring could impact the local economy. They say they’re concerns that without the weekly bonus from the federal government, there will less money for people to spend, which could hurt local businesses already struggling to survive.

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