EDUCATION, TRAINING & LABOR
HKS study finds that unemployment benefits did not reach most people during U.S. lockdowns, causing major hardships
New research co-authored by Harvard Kennedy School Professor Daniel Schneider and Professor Kristen Harknett of the University of California found that only one quarter of service sector workers laid off or furloughed during pandemic lockdowns had received unemployment benefits. The findings were based on a survey conducted in April and May of 2,500 laid-off workers from 110 of the largest service sector companies in the United States involved in the retail, food service, hospitality, grocery, pharmacy, fulfillment, and hardware sectors. “Recent debates over the appropriate amount of unemployment insurance benefits often assume that unemployed workers will actually receive these benefits,” Schneider says. “Our research shows that was far from the case, and the consequences were catastrophic for working families.” The researchers also found stark differences between state programs and practices, leading to hunger and other major hardships for those who could not secure timely assistance. The research was conducted by the Shift Project, a collaboration between the Kennedy School’s Malcolm Wiener Center for Social Policy and the University of California, San Francisco.