Stimulus aid is dead, but unemployed workers demand Congress revive compensation

Pandemic unemployment compensation rally
Photo credit Paul Kurtz/KYW Newsradio
PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — A lone bagpiper and pallbearers led dozens of sign-carrying protesters with an empty coffin in a mock funeral procession outside City Hall Thursday.
A sign on the casket read, “Here lies pandemic unemployment compensation, we hardly knew thee,” referring to the $600 weekly federal stimulus check that recently expired.  

Unemployed people tote a coffin in mock funeral for the death of federal unemployment compensation. ⁦

— Paul Kurtz (@kurtzpaul) August 20, 2020

The coalition of unemployed workers and their supporters are demanding Congress to renew the stimulus program. 

Rebecca Ansell, an unemployed violinist, said the earliest professional musicians will be able to return to work is the middle of next year.

“The $600 a week is essential to keep us afloat, and it’s not too much to ask,” she said. “For $600 a week, it’s $15 an hour in a 40-hour-a-week job.”

Already frustrated and frightened about the future, this collection of down-on-their-luck Philadelphians now feel that they’ve been abandoned by President Donald Trump and a Congress that adjourned without reaching a deal on a new stimulus package. The only local politician who stood with them on Thursday was state Sen. Art Haywood.

“The only way we will be heard is by being out here, because have we tried to be heard? And what’s been the response? Silence,” he said. “We’ve got to be out here week after week after week.”

Philadelphia Unemployment Project Executive Director John Dodds pointed out that the stimulus money was also meant to stimulate the economy overall. 

“All of you got that $600 were able to consume and spend. Once that money stops, it’s gonna stop,” he said. “Pulling that money out is gonna be a big problem for everybody, not just for the unemployed but the entire United States.”