Furloughed workers don’t want to return to their jobs as they’re earning more money with unemployment

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An unintended and unexpected consequence of the multitrillion dollar stimulus package is that workers are asking to be laid off or reluctant to go back to work after being furloughed.

In an effort to help people financially cope with their job losses in the midst of a pandemic, the federal government—through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES Act)—is providing an extra $600 per week in unemployment benefits. This amount is in addition to what the states already pay, which is in the range of $200 to $300 per week.

A person could conceivably earn $1,000 per week on unemployment, depending upon the state he or she resides in. In addition to the enhanced benefits, most Americans, earning less than $75,000 in 2019, received a one-time check for $1,200 and $500 for each child under 17 years of age.

Here’s the situation facing companies that have already been financially hurt by the consequences of the COVID-19 outbreak. Consider a worker in an Amazon warehouse. The worker has to be on their feet all day, lift heavy boxes onto and off of high shelves and race around the facility to fulfill orders. Earning a minimum wage of $15 per hour, the person may make pre-tax $525 per week. Think of how many millions of other people work at dangerous, physically demanding or unpleasant jobs earning a similar amount.

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Start-ups pursue ‘free money’ with relief funds, prompting backlash

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Domio, a startup that offers short-term rentals, has its headquarters in a New York City loft that features beer on tap, a game room and a wall of house slippers for visitors. The fast-growing and unprofitable company has raised $117 million in venture capital, including $100 million in August.

When the coronavirus pandemic caused Domio’s bookings to dry up last month, it laid off staff but did not ask its investors for more funding. Jay Roberts, Domio’s chief executive, said it had no immediate need to raise more money and most likely had enough cash to last until 2021.

Instead, Domio applied for a federal loan under the Paycheck Protection Program, the $349 billion plan to save jobs at small businesses during the outbreak. It received a loan on April 13. Three days later, the program’s funding ran out, even as hundreds of hard-hit restaurants, hair salons and shops around the country missed out on the relief.

Questions about whether the funds were disbursed fairly and whether some applicants deserved them have drawn scrutiny to the aid program. Several companies that got millions of dollars in loans, such as the Shake Shack and Kura Sushi restaurant chains, faced criticism and eventually gave the money back. On Friday, President Donald Trump signed legislation approving a fresh $320 billion to replenish the program, which the Small Business Administration is directing.

Now, scrutiny of the program has reached technology startups like Domio. While many of these young companies have been hurt by the pandemic, they are not ailing in the same way that traditional small businesses are. Many mom-and-pop enterprises, which tend to employ hourly workers and operate on razor-thin margins, are shutting down immediately because of economic pain or begging for donations via GoFundMe campaigns.

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