Metro Detroit family dependent on unemployment benefits struggling to find jobs with livable wages

Posted at 7:21 AM, Jul 27, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-27 07:22:58-04

(WXYZ) — Unemployment benefits have helped millions of Michiganders survive financially during the pandemic.

Since last March, more than 3 million claimants have filed for unemployment, totaling more than $37.2 billion in payments. For some, collecting unemployment is more profitable than their regular work wages.

Jobless benefits are a tool to help those who have lost their jobs through no fault of their own. But it's become increasingly controversial during the pandemic, especially for those who are looking for work and want a fair wage.

Life for Crystal Albrecht and her family was upended during the pandemic. Her husband contracted COVID and was forced to resign from his job.

"He actually started collecting unemployment and made more on unemployment, helping our kids, being home with them, than what I did working full-time," she said. "As well as what he did when he was working prior to going off with COVID leave."

She said he's actively looking for work – a requirement to collect unemployment benefits – but nothing leading to a livable wage for a family of six has come through.

"My husband has filled out numerous job applications, numerous interviews, numerous phone calls back, most of them are all part-time work. We can't live on a part-time income."

The extra $300 per week in federal benefits is set to expire in September.

University of Michigan Researcher Daniil Manaenkov said about 20 states opted to end the federal benefits. Of those, four states ended them in June. As a result, theoretically, he said you'd expect more people would have flocked back to work, but that did not happen.

"As of right now, there, at least in this early states that killed benefits early in June, there isn't anything that suggests that this is a a mass scale problem."

If there is no extension of benefits, Manaenkov said he expect there to at least be "some bump up" on the labor force.

"Some people are probably on the sidelines due to the benefits," he said. "But I'm not sure it's a major contributor."

The Albrechts say full-time work with a satisfactory wage will do.

"I hope that things go back to normal very soon and we are kind of moving past this."