To soften the blow from the unprecedented, government-imposed closure of the American economy in March of 2020, Congress instituted a $600 weekly unemployment bonus. The average benefit came close to $1,000 per week, or roughly $50,000 a year. Suddenly, many Americans found themselves able to make more from unemployment than from working. Five out of every six unemployment recipients were receiving more than they could earn from work.
Congress also created a new federal unemployment program for people who do not traditionally qualify for benefits and vastly extended the length of time unemployed workers could stay on the program.
Even as COVID-19 began to wane and states began to reopen, these radical expansions and extensions continued—and it quickly became clear that they were holding back the economic recovery and hurting the country in three specific ways.