Millions of unemployed Americans are set to lose pandemic-related jobless benefits after Labor Day – just as surging cases of coronavirus slow the pace of hiring.

In all, an estimated 8.8 million people will stop receiving unemployment insurance beginning on Sept. 6, 2021. Millions more will no longer get the extra US$300 a week the federal government has been providing to supplement state benefits.

But with the pandemic still raging thanks to the rise of the delta variant, particularly in Southern states, the expiration of these benefits seems ill-timed. While some claim that the aid is no longer needed and doing more harm than good, we believe that the data tell another story.

Benefits lost

Three federal programs created to support workers hurt by the COVID-19 pandemic and related lockdowns expire on Sept. 6:

All told, the end of these programs may affect 35 million people when you include families of the unemployed.

Dropping aid didn’t boost jobs growth

Critics of these federal supplemental benefits claim they reward Americans for not working by offering more in aid than they’d get from a job. This is why many Republican governors opted to drop out of one or more of the federal programs in recent months.

“We see ‘Help Wanted’ signs everywhere,” Idaho Republican Gov. Brad Little said on May 11, 2021. “We do not want people on unemployment. We want people working.”

But the data we have so far simply doesn’t back up these claims.

We compared employment growth in the 25 states that decided to drop the federal $300 supplement with those that kept it. Total employment in states that kept the federal supplement grew by 0.77% in July, compared with 0.54% for the states that gave it up, according to an analysis of Bureau of Labor Statistics, suggesting the benefits aren’t keeping workers on the sidelines.

The same pattern holds for sectors of the economy hit hardest by COVID-19. Leisure and hospitality jobs, such as wait staff and cooks, accounted for roughly 1 in 4 of all jobs lost in 2020. Hiring rose 2.3% in those industries in states that kept the federal benefit, compared with 1.55% for other states.

This is consistent with a growing number of studies that show no correlation between the higher unemployment payments during the pandemic and lagging job growth.

We won’t know whether the trend continued until the state-by-state employment breakdown is released in mid-September. But for now, the evidence doesn’t support the claim that benefits keep folks at home.

Jobless Americans still need support

We do know that people who want to work are still being prevented from doing so because of COVID-19.

The latest jobs report, released on Sept. 3, 2021, showed that 5.6 million people were unable to work in August because their employer closed or lost business because of the pandemic, up from 5.2 million in July.

That may help explain why companies hired only 235,000 in August – a third of what economists had expected. And there were no gains in leisure and hospitality, which pay some of the lowest wages of any industry.

As recently as late May, before the delta variant began causing caseloads to climb, pandemic-related unemployment claims were falling across all 50 states. Then, over June and July, claims spiked again as COVID-19 cases rippled across the country.

Nearly a third of those currently unemployed come from three sectors of the economy: health care and social assistance; accommodation and food services; and retail trade. According to industry wage data, none of these sectors provides a median wage that meets the minimum survival budgets of American households.

All this shows why these three federal programs are still so important.

The extended benefits give unemployed people more time to find a job while helping them cover basic expenses. Gig workers, like Uber drivers and other independent contractors, need unemployment benefits too, especially as 60% of them lost income during the pandemic and many continue to struggle as business activity remains subdued. These workers are also less likely to receive employer-sponsored benefits like health care.

And the $300 federal supplement is important because pre-pandemic state benefits – which are typically about $340 a week – replaced only 30% to 50% of lost earnings. Even with the supplement, for most people, it’s still less than what they were earning from their job.

Tough choices ahead

That’s why the expiring benefits mean so much to lower-income families, especially now that the Supreme Court has struck down the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s ban on evictions.

For many, losing the benefit could be the difference between choosing to pay for food or rent, or forgoing a doctor’s visit because of the high costs of health care.

But after the benefits expire on Labor Day, making ends meet and stay in their homes will be significantly harder for millions of American families.

We all strive to work in a safe environment, a place where we are both physically and mentally secure. Thanks to a variety of laws and regulations, there have been numerous improvements to safety in the workplace over the years — yet there are still many hazards present in today’s work environments.

Occupational health and safety refer to guidelines and procedures that protect the welfare and health of those engaged in a particular work environment. This works by reducing overall workplace accidents, injuries, and fatalities.

Furthermore, such guidelines are helpful as they bring out a blueprint to be used to protect both the physical and mental health of all workers, regardless of their rank. Besides protecting the workers and their employers, occupational health and safety also cater to the well-being of customers and the general public.

When workplace health and safety procedures are correctly followed businesses can avoid and reduce costs such as disability benefits, medical care, and even frequent sick leaves.

It is the role of the local authorities to ensure that health and safety standards are followed. However, setting up structures and implementing them falls directly on the employers and business owners.

Carrying out risk assessments entails inspecting the workplace and determining possible health and safety hazards. After that, you have to put measures to eliminate, reduce, or control the identified risks.

Employers also have to ensure that all employees are made aware of all the potential hazards at the workplace and are informed on ways to manage such risks. Employers must also come up with ways to implement suitable mitigation procedures. This covers everything, from installing, maintaining, and managing any activities or equipment used to keep people safe within that particular installation.

Employees also have a role to play to ensure that their workplace is safe and healthy for use. For starters, they are required to co-operate with their employer and ensure to follow all preset rules and guidelines.

Here are a few other ways employees can be responsible for their workplace health and safety:

Report any hazards or failings: It is the duty of an employee to report potential hazards or failings that could be detrimental to the health and safety of the workplace.

Adhere to safety procedures: All employees should adhere to the health and safety instructions and training that they receive. This is to ensure that they work safely while taking care of themselves and those affected by their actions.

Be proactive: As an employee, it is your role to become proactive and take it upon yourself to ensure that you work in a healthy and safe environment. If your workstation needs some tidying up, do so to avoid any health concerns. Get rid of any obstructions to avoid unnecessary accidents, not only to you but to other users.

Besides having some responsibilities to consider, employees should also be aware of their rights, as far as workplace health and safety are concerned. Some of the most common ones are:

  • The right to have any risks to your health and safety control;
  • To approach your employer whenever any issues regarding workplace health and safety arise;
  • To be consulted about safety and health measures at the workplace;
  • To reach out to relevant authorities if the employer doesn’t address workplace health and safety concerns without being disciplined.

While it is the employer’s role to create a healthy and safe work environment, employees also have certain responsibilities that they should uphold. This will not just protect them but those around them. Having a team spirit is the only thing that will ensure total safety in the workplace.