Bay Area Residents Affected by Expiration of Federal Unemployment Benefits

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As of late Sunday night, federal unemployment benefits expired for millions of Americans.

That includes about 3 million Californians. It’s what many have called a lifeline during this pandemic.

It includes about a million self-employed, part time, contract workers or gig employees who will lose benefits completely. Among them is Emerson Aquino, owner of Full Out Dance Studio in Oakland.

As of late Sunday night, pandemic-related federal unemployment benefits expired for millions of Americans, including about 3 million Californians. Thom Jensen reports.

Emerson is self-employed, and when he lost his full time job at the onset of the pandemic, unemployment benefits became a lifeline.

"I would say that four, five, six months really hurt us," he said. "That unemployment check coming in was very helpful when it comes to all the essentials."

Thanks to his benefits and support of his dance community, Emerson and his studio are slowly getting back on their feet.

However, at Hotel Via right across from Oracle Park in San Francisco, the story is different.

Barbara Perzigian, general manager at the hotel, said it's been a struggle. But things have picked up as the Giants started to play ball.

As business picks up, Perzigian is facing the challenge of finding enough people who want to go back to work.

"On the room side, I have people waiting to get a call from me, but on the bar/restaurant side, its hard to staff," she said. "They've gone somewhere else and they don't want to come back."

Solano County's Workforce Development Board, who has been looking at both the employed and jobseeker's perspective, explain not everyone is ready to come back to work. Unemployment benefits made it easier to wait.

"We are seeing a hesitant workforce," said Heather Henry, president of Solano County's Workforce Development Board. "There are a lot of considerations that people are struggling with right now."

Federal unemployment benefits have expired for millions of Americans. Michael Bernick, former director of the Employment Development Department, talks about the immediate and long-term impacts.

That includes safety concerns and struggles for families looking for child care.

"In Solano County for example, we lost about half of our child care providers and we didn't have enough to support the workforce pre-pandemic," Henry said.

Former EDD director Michael Bernicks told NBC Bay Area Sunday that considering how many people in California remain unemployed, it will be a huge change.

“What’s different today is that I see is that the return to work is much more hesitant,” he said. “Part of that is the health concern, part of that is childcare and part of that is reconsidering their occupations.”

More than 20 states voluntarily ended their federal unemployment benefits months ago as they are hoping to get more people back into the workforce.

“The number of job seekers has picked up,” Bernicks said.

But officials said it doesn’t mean everyone will get back to work right away.

“We are hoping that this will help kickstart many aspects of the labor market to bring the job seekers back, said Bob Lanter, executive director of Cal Workforce.

The turning point in benefits is something businesses in San Francisco are looking forward to.

Re-staffing has been the biggest challenge for Moki’s in San Francisco’s Bernal Heights neighborhood.

“We sent them the letters, texts emails asking them to come back but we didn’t get any response. Nobody call at all,” said Ann Singhaklangpol, manager of Moki’s.

Experts say time will tell on how California's workforce will react to the expiration of federal benefits.

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