Unemployment Benefits are Complicated

A person on unemployment could, theoretically, bring home roughly as much as $3,340 per month gross ($46,700 per year) in Texas but that is dependent on how much they made before they were unemployed. Unemployment benefits are purposefully complicated and the amount one receives is based on the most recent 4 calendar quarters of earnings in the last 5 calendar quarters at the time of filing. This is important – if you made 50k – 60k per year you have the expenses and bills of a person who made 50k – 60k per year. It is also important to remember that there is a set max a person can receive on unemployment, no matter how much they made per quarter before becoming unemployed. That max (in TX anyway) is roughly $3,340 per month with the additional $300 covid relief benefits included. The covid benefits expire in September, btw – they are temporary. The average person on unemployment is not receiving the max benefits though. In Texas, the average benefits received are roughly $1,404 per month gross (this includes the extra covid money).

All of that being said, the jobs experiencing an employee shortage are not 50k per year jobs. Those jobs are getting filled. The businesses struggling to find workers aren’t the kind of jobs that someone who has a mortgage, a car payment, student loans, childcare expenses etc. could live on. The majority of the shortage right now is for jobs that rarely provide insurance or a guarantee of full-time hours. They are also high-risk jobs, as in high risk of turn over, high risk of covid, high risk of being screamed at over policies you have no control over, high risk of burn out, etc.

This shortage is also happening in the same jobs that we’ve been told repeatedly, for decades now, are for teenagers not grown people with responsibilities and bills, and thus shouldn’t have higher pay.

The problem isn’t that unemployment pays out too much. The problem is that we expect people to struggle to live so that we can receive faster table service.

The problem is that we (collective we) have been saying these aren’t careers, they are jobs for kids, for decades now. The problem is that we expect everyone to just be willing to go back to work in lower-paying jobs that often do not provide insurance during a pandemic without mask mandates and half the population refusing to get vaccinated. The problem is that we, as a society and as employers, fully told servers how little we care about them over the past year but expect people to jump at the “opportunity” just because we’re “over it” despite the fact that “it” isn’t over us.

No, someone who is receiving $3,340 per month (gross) on unemployment isn’t going to take a service industry job, without insurance, for $2.15 per hour plus tips and no guaranteed hours. Nor should they. The average cost of an overnight stay in a hospital in the US is $9,300 (this can vary depending on where you live though). 60% of all bankruptcies in the US are related to medical expenses. Death isn’t the only risk where covid is concerned and medical expenses are expensive. The average cost of childcare in Texas is $600 per month for one child. The average cost of rent in Dallas county is $671 per month for a one-bedroom apartment. The average cost of a car payment in the US is $381 per month for a used car. The average cost of student loans per month in the US is $393 per month. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that the average annual expenses in the US for a family of 2 were $60,060 per year…in 2017. That is $5,005 per month needed, after taxes.

If the past year has taught us anything it is that insurance being tied to employment is complete bullshit but also taking a job that can’t or won’t provide you insurance is dumb AF.

If the past year has taught us anything else it is that service industry employees are abused constantly, by both their employers and customers, and are not paid enough to deal with that, let alone live. Just last week a woman was arrested in Austin after the police were called because she assaulted an employee at a clothing store who asked her to wear a mask. Last summer a bus driver died in Detroit after contracting Covid from a patron who refused to wear a mask and purposefully coughed on them. And let us not forget that a man was shot and killed last year over mask policies at a freaking dollar store.

Take away covid and I’ve got plenty of personal stories from working at Petco for $9 per hour and having to deal with people throwing things at me and yelling at me daily over simple return policies – I was in my 20s and often had to debate if groceries or gas were more important each week because I couldn’t skip rent. Had I lost my job last year you can bet your ass I wouldn’t be taking a $2.15 per hour + tips job right now, or ever, to wait on entitled assholes who think mask policies are oppression and vaccinations have microchips in them. I wouldn’t accept $9 per hour to be assaulted by customers over store policies I have zero control over while working retail either.

All of you out there with your well-paying jobs and insurance can eff all the way off with this nonsense that people aren’t going back to work because they are lazy. They aren’t going back to work, in the service industry, because it isn’t worth it when they’ll have to deal with people like you and still struggle to pay their bills.



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