In summary

CalMatters invited readers to share how they’re getting by since the federal $600 weekly boost to unemployment benefits expired. These are their stories, in their words.

CalMatters invited readers to share their experience on how they’re getting by without the extra $600-per-week in unemployment assistance. Californians from San Diego and San Dimas to Fresno and Ripon responded with harrowing tales of trying to make ends meet.

We asked you to describe how you’re getting through each month and what changes you’ve made, in your life. We also asked what message you’d like to send to California lawmakers if you had the chance. Your response was universal. It’s not about partisanship, it’s not about blame. It’s about helping residents get through this dramatic downturn upending lives. 

Everyone is simply wondering: When will help arrive? 

Here are just some of the comments we received. Comments have been lightly edited for spelling and style.

Since the $600 a week was going to end in late July and I was only receiving $340 a week on California unemployment, I went out and got a job at a casino making less than half of what I was making before being let go of my position in marketing because of COVID-19. I went from $25 an hour to $13.

Why is our unemployment only $450-max a week?   

-Stacey Nelson, Williams

Worried about losing my house. Can not find a job because of age. Used most of my savings to survive.

EDD approved my unemployment after a six-week wait. I got paid for four weeks, then my claim is still sitting there in pending status. No money coming in!

-Jim Slate, Fresno

I have had to significantly decrease my spending, and while waiting months for my unemployment to process (applied in March and didn’t receive my first check until July) I spent my entire savings account. I read on the unemployment site that I qualify for back pay (to the tune of over $10,000) for the pandemic benefits, but have yet to see any and have not been able to get a hold of EDD to see if they have or will be issued. 

These systems need to be updated. There is no reason why in 2020 billions are spent on law enforcement while the unemployment department is left with outdated systems months into this pandemic with unprecedented numbers of unemployed. 

-Reagan Swartz, Ripon

I am unemployed and had been receiving the $600, plus the $167 offered through the Pandemic Assistance available to contractors. With that now gone, I am now eligible to receive $334 every two weeks. All of the money I received from unemployment went to cover my rent of $1,900. 

I have opted to find a cheaper place but you need a deposit and first month’s rent, which I do not have. I also take care of a good friend who was recently diagnosed with full blown AIDS and did not have anywhere to go and was going to be homeless. He has applied for disability but with EDD in disarray, it will take some time. 

Since the reduction, I have been driving for a delivery service which pays anywhere from $50-$125 per night. It’s not stable and can be frustrating. I am also still looking for a job but being 55 years old, there are few employers willing to hire anyone over 50 and those that do will pay you minimum wage. 

I sometimes cry when I am out driving and when I think about the circumstances that got me here and how it is so unfair. I pray a lot and to be honest, it’s the only thing that keeps me from just going crazy. My plan is still to move forward and try and maintain a positive attitude.  Everyday is a struggle. I just hope that something changes soon. 

There are millions of people in this state that are suffering through the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. I am one of them. For each day you delay relief or argue with government officials, it means another day of suffering for those who are dependent on assistance. I am tired of hearing excuses and officials not doing their job. The people of this state need assistance now. We are also over being lied too and waiting on promises made and not delivered. 

-Larry Diaz, Cypress

I’m not getting by, I’m drowning. 

I can’t pay my rent, car, utilities, bills nor provide food on the table. How are we supposed to get by when everything was taken away? How are we supposed to live when what we once had is now gone? I understand that millions are going through such a difficult time, but why is nothing being done to help us? 

We are the ones who make the community. Without people, you have nothing. I have been through the most about of stress in my 25 years of living. I don’t have a savings account or money saved somewhere. We live paycheck to paycheck and now without the economic boost and losing my job, we basically have nothing. 

And what’s interesting is that testing positive for COVID, EDD doesn’t cover that. Yes, I tested positive and I overcame it, still struggling and looking for a job in a country that doesn’t want to continue helping. It goes good for a couple of months and then they take the rug from under us and leave us to fend for ourselves. 

We are the people who make up the community and vote to get them to sit on those chairs and decide the fate of our lives. They don’t have to worry about someone knocking on their door to evict them, getting a phone call that their car is going to get repossessed, having to hear that family members are hungry and not being able to offer food, selling anything of value to get some money within the home. These are things that daily people of their community are going through and it’s time to stand up for the people who placed them there. We have worries, feelings, doubts, anxiety, stress all because we can’t make ends meet and need their help. Please help us. 

-Talia Valle, San Dimas

It’s been hard without the additional $600. I start college this month and I’ve got all these things Ive got to pay. I didn’t wanna lose my job but that’s how it is. If this was gonna happen, they should’ve sent a big email to all of us unemployment insurance recipients. And to go from $1,500 every two weeks to $300? I can’t even pay rent with that.

How is anyone supposed to live like this? There was no real warning when the first cut came in July and now they’ve cut it again by another $600 in August. $300 every other week isn’t enough to keep this roof over my head.

-Ajani Thomas, Hemet

Rent is 100% about to be overdue. $700, PLEASE I’m going to lose everything. 

-Brandon Navarro, Anaheim

I’m named after someone rich but I am not him. I’ve stripped everything down to water and peaches from a nearby tree. I am a hard worker and have worked since I was 15. I am 54 now. I am a Republican but will not vote that again. The Republican party hates workers like me.

Burn in hell for kicking people when we are down. Where is your American spirit of Charity? “Do not withhold good when it is in the power of your hand to give it”… it’s in the Bible. 

-Kirk Douglas, Santa Clarita

I’m not getting by! I’m going to be evicted from my apartment, and I can’t even afford to eat. I have two kids and I lost my job due to COVID-19. 

Hurry up and help me!! 

-Andrew Gray, San Diego

How are you getting by on unemployment benefits? 
We invite you to share your story here. 

¿Cómo te las estás arreglando sin los beneficios del Seguro de Desempleo?
Te invitamos a compartir tu historia aquí.

This article is part of California Divide, a collaboration among newsrooms examining income inequity and economic survival in California.

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Judy serves as hub editor of the California Divide project, a five-newsroom collaboration covering economic inequality. Prior to editing, she reported on state finance, workforce and economic issues. Her...