Beefed-up unemployment benefits that the US government is doling out in the coronavirus crisis are so generous they’re encouraging many recipients to stay home from work, The Post has learned.
The emergency legislation, the CARES Act, which was passed last month, is aimed at helping businesses and workers hurt by coronavirus shutdowns, including through $600 checks to people who can’t work or who were laid off.
But the federal checks combined with pumped-up state unemployment benefits, which in New York can add up to as much as $1,104 a week, means some workers are now getting as much — if not more — through unemployment than they were earning before the pandemic.
In addition, CARES gives families earning less than $75,000 in 2019 a one-time check for $1,200 — in addition to $500 for each child under 17.
These stimulus benefits make it tough for employers to ask people to work through the crisis, and raise questions about whether government stimulus is hurting the small, cash-strapped businesses it’s supposed to help.
“It’s put us in a weird position, because we are asking [employees] to come back to work, but they’ve told us they don’t feel safe, or they have said, ‘Why should I be paid less than I’m getting at home?’ ” said Meagan Beatty, who has been trying to reopen her Scranton, Pa.-based business after shutting it several weeks ago.
Beatty’s Northeast Commercial Sharpening company, which provides knife-and-equipment sharpening services to hospitals, schools, restaurants and grocery stores, was notified on April 9 that it is now deemed an essential business, giving it an opportunity to rehire.
The problem: Her seven drivers, who have been receiving unemployment checks, don’t want to resume their routes, she told The Post. Her drivers earn between $750 to $850 a week compared to the $1,000 or so in unemployment checks they are now receiving.
“We are looking at whether we can raise their salaries, but our revenues have declined by 100 percent. And if we reopen we will have 50 percent of the business we had,” Beatty said.
Matthew Tully, an owner of law firm Tully Rinckey, which has 11 offices, including in Manhattan, also said his company has suffered multiple defections in recent weeks due to the CARES stimulus.
Three employees providing support services to the firm — and earning salaries in the low $40,000 range — resigned within the past two weeks, Tully said. And one job candidate, who had been laid off from her previous job at a law firm, turned down his offer of $45,000, even though it amounted to a $3,000 bump-up, Tully said.
The job candidate, a mother of school-age children who had started the interview process in February, turned down the job last week to stay at home with her children for as long as possible, according to Tully.
The three other employees are single mothers who said they could not perform their job functions from home because they, too, have to look after their school-age children, he said.