SPOKANE, Washington — As pandemic aid programs expire, service providers say they expect to see more people in need. Now, more organizations are preparing for the increase.
In September, for the first time in 18 months, many jobless people across the country did not receive enhanced payments from federal programs designed to help them weather the pandemic.
“They would call and say, ‘We don’t know where to go,’” said Roseanna Peterson, from the Dream Center, a nonprofit dedicated to helping those in need. “We help families who are starting over and getting them established, whether it's housing or clothing or food.”
Because pandemic aid programs have expired, organizations like The Dream Center and Second Harvest, a food bank, are preparing for an increase of those in need.
“We’ve done several things to prepare for this, including increasing our staff substantially,” said Eric Williams with Second Harvest. “We’re also trying to navigate and keep our eye on eviction moratoriums and all those things kind of come together and create an additional need. We went to about 17,000 a month and quickly went up to 22,000 a month.”
Two key programs expired: the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance that covered those traditionally not eligible for aid and the Federal Pandemic Unemployment compensation, which added a $300 weekly boost to people’s benefits.
According to the Department of Labor, states issued $794 billion in combined state and federal unemployment benefits in the last year.
According to the Century Foundation, about 1 in 4 workers across the country received some type of unemployment benefit.
“We had to double the number of our staff. We had 40 employees; we’re hovering around 90. So, it’s a substantial increase for a regional non-profit,” said Drew Muer, the chief of staff at Second Harvest in Spokane Washington.
“It’s a combination of a number of things people losing their jobs and hours cuts, unemployment coming and going and the whole sense of uncertainty people needing good and nutritious food and we were able to deal with that,” said Williams
Although unemployment levels have improved across the country, Moody’s Analytics reported it may be more than a year before things return to pre-pandemic levels.
“We are vital,” Peterson said. “Because there are a lot of needy people that have nowhere to go, or don’t know where to go.”