Things That Matter

Are You One Of The Millions Of Americans That’s Lost A Job? Here’s Everything You Need To Know About Unemployment Benefits

The Coronavirus pandemic has decimated economies around the world, but the U.S. in particular has been hit very hard. The country has seen more than 35 million people apply for jobless benefits since the crisis began – pushing unemployment figures to record-setting levels.

As of late April, the U.S. unemployment rate was nearing 15% – the highest since the Great Depression during the 1930s – after being at record lows through February.

If you’re lucky enough to still have your job, you likely know someone who doesn’t. And as state and federal governments try and put together bills aimed at supporting out of work Americans, here’s everything you need to know about the crisis and how you can get help.

The U.S. economy has shed more than 10% of its workforce in just two short months.

More than 33 million jobless Americans have now made unemployment claims in the past seven weeks. These are record-breaking figures that show just how fragile the U.S. economy is. And the figures are in stark contrast to what they were just before the pandemic began.

In March, the official unemployment rate in the was 4.4%, close to a 50-year low, but economists predict it could now be as high as 20%, a level unseen since the Great Depression.

The pace of layoffs has overwhelmed state unemployment systems across the country. Over a million people in North Carolina have now made unemployment insurance benefit claims, equivalent to 20% of the state’s workforce. Some 4 million have applied in California and the state’s jobless benefits fund is “very close” to running out, Governor Gavin Newsom said this week.

Some of the worst hit sectors include industries that employ people of color at much higher rates.

Credit: Ivy Caballo / Getty

Black and Hispanic workers are bearing the brunt of the economic crisis because they are overrepresented in industries that were hit first by social distancing mandates and stay-at-home orders, economists say. These include leisure and hospitality, such as hotels and restaurants; retail; and construction, where Latino men make up more than a quarter of workers.

According to a recent report by UnidosUS, Latinos are 17.6% of the total U.S. workforce, but they make up large segments of so-called essential workers, including 54% of agricultural workers; 38.8% of food manufacturing workers; 29% of medical assistants; 20.5% of grocery store workers; and 18.8% of transportation and utility workers.

Even more serious, Blacks and Hispanics are also dying of covid-19 at higher rates than whites, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

In fact, Latinos now have the highest rate of unemployment in the country.

Credit: Stephanie Keith / Getty

At 18%, Latinos have the highest unemployment rate in the U.S, while the jobless rate for workers nationwide stands at 14.7%.

“This devastating economic data affirms that Hispanic and African American communities have been disproportionately impacted during this pandemic,” said Sindy Benavides, CEO of League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), adding that “minority-owned small-businesses have been shut out of [Paycheck Protection Program] loans and unable to keep workers on payroll.”

But governments are trying to provide support to the jobless – here’s what you need to know.

For most workers who have been laid off as a result of the pandemic, the first line of defense is to file an unemployment claim. Usually, you’ll be entitled to a percentage of your regular pay. In addition, the CARES Act – passed by Congress in March – will supplement your unemployment benefits by up to $600 per week.

Benefits.gov provides a comprehensive unemployment assistance page in both English and Spanish to help laid-off workers identify unemployment resources in their state.

It’s important to note that for Dreamers and other undocumented workers, they’re mostly left out of the above programs. And most were also denied the one-time stimulus checks. However, there are many resources at Informed Immigrant for refugees and undocumented workers, such as cash assistance and grant programs, rent relief, food banks, medical assistance, and support with renewing DACA status or other legal aid.

Even if you’re part of the gig economy – or self-employed – you could be eligible for unemployment benefits.

It’s also worth noting that thanks to the pandemic, even if you are a gig worker or self-employed, you’re likely eligible for federal jobless benefits – even if your state doesn’t provide them. The federal CARES Act promises unemployment benefits for the first time to gig workers and the self-employed.

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Met Gala 2021 Is Happening And Amanda Gorman Is Set To Host The America-Themed Fashion Event

Entertainment

Met Gala 2021 Is Happening And Amanda Gorman Is Set To Host The America-Themed Fashion Event

Alex Wong/Getty Images

It’s 2021 and the Met Gala is back this year – after being canceled in 2020 thanks to a pandemic – with superstar poet Amanda Gorman being eyed to host the fashion event of the year. Given the 23-year-old’s show-stopping performance at the inauguration, the theme fittingly will be a celebration of America and American designers.

The Met Gala will return in 2021 with a very special guest as host.

Vogue’s “Oscars of Fashion” famously takes place on the first Monday of May. However, this year it’s been pushed back to September 13, in hopes that life will have returned to something closer to normal by then.

Epic poet Amanda Gorman is reportedly in talks to co-host the event alongside Tom Ford, who is the academy’s president. The breakout star of President Biden’s inauguration, Gorman is on the cover of the magazine’s May issue and the subject of a relentlessly glowing profile inside.

The black-tie gala, which raises funds for Met’s Costume Institute, is normally fashion’s biggest night and sees guests from Lady Gaga, Jennifer Lopez and Cardi B to Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk and even Maluma.

The event was canceled in 2020 thanks to a global pandemic.

The world’s most glamorous party was canceled in 2020 because of COVID-19, which was (and still is) raging the planet at the time. There was a virtual event in place of the 2020 event, with celebs like Julia Roberts, Priyanka Chopra and Amanda Seyfried showing off their looks from home and stars like Mindy Kaling and Adam Rippon taking part in the #MetGalaChallenge, recreating looks from past years.

This year’s event will draw inspiration from all things USA.

The theme of this year’s Met Gala has not been announced, but Page Six says the night will be devoted to honoring America and American designers, following the 18-month-long COVID crisis in this country.

Recent past themes for the event have included “Camp: Notes on Fashion” (2019), “Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination” (2018), and “Rei Kawakubo/Comme des Garçons: Art of the In-Between (2017). And don’t forget 2016, when Zayn Malik wore robot-arms to Manus x Machina: Fashion in an Age of Technology.

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This Is How Cuba Is Developing Its Own COVID Vaccine When It Can Barely Get Daily Necessities To The Island

Things That Matter

This Is How Cuba Is Developing Its Own COVID Vaccine When It Can Barely Get Daily Necessities To The Island

Yamil Lage/AFP via Getty Images

Cuba has long been a biotech juggernaut in the Caribbean. When health crises emerge around the globe or there’s a medical disaster, Cuba is often one of the first nation’s to send medical staff and emergency workers to help. Its medical team has become part of the country’s diplomacy.

But the Coronavirus pandemic has brought economic devastation to a country already facing severe economic issues. Many on the island struggle to even find daily necessities like Tylenol or Band-Aids yet the Cuban government is just steps away from developing its own vaccine against COVID-19. How is this possible?

Cuban researches are making their own Coronavirus vaccine and seeing great results.

Currently on the island, there are five vaccine candidates in development, with two already in late-stage trials. Cuban officials say they’re developing cheap and easy-to-store serums. They are able to last at room temperature for weeks, and in long-term storage as high as 46.4 degrees, potentially making them a viable option for low-income, tropical countries that have been pushed aside by bigger, wealthier nations in the international race for coronavirus vaccines.

If they’re successful and developing and rolling out the vaccine, Cuba – a country where the average scientific researcher earns about $250 a month — could be among the first nations in the world to reach herd immunity, putting it in a position to lure vaccine tourists and to export surpluses of what officials claim could reach 100 million doses by year’s end.

If they pull this off, it would be a big win for the communist government.

Achieving success would be an against-the-odds feat of medical science and a public relations win for the isolated country of 11 million people. Cuba was just added back to the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism in the final days of the Trump administration.

It could also make Cuba the pharmacist for nations lumped by Washington into the so-called “Axis of Evil.” Countries like Iran and Venezuela have already inked vaccine deals with Havana. Iran has even agreed to host a Phase 3 trial of one of Cuba’s most promising candidates — Soberana 2 — as part of a technology transfer agreement that could see millions of doses manufactured in Iran.

“We have great confidence in Cuban medical science and biotechnology,” Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza told The Washington Post this week. “It will not only be fundamental for Venezuela, but for the Americas. It will be the true solution for our people.”

So how is Cuba managing to pull this off despite all the challenges they face?

Cuba is an authoritarian, one-party state with strict controls on everything from free speech and political activism to social media and LGBTQ rights. But the island has always invested heavily in education and healthcare, which has led to an unusually sophisticated biotechnology industry for a small developing country, with at least 31 research companies and 62 factories with over 20,000 workers.

Should Cuba’s vaccines succeed, its researchers will have overcome even more hurdles than their peers in Western labs — including shortages of equipment, spare parts and other supplies, due in part to U.S. sanctions

A successful vaccine could also become a vital new source of revenue for Cuba, which has been suffering a brutal economic crisis that has citizens waiting hours in line to buy scarce food, soap and toothpaste. The economy worsened under Trump-era sanctions that tightened the long-standing U.S. economic embargo of Cuba by curbing remittances, scaling back U.S. flights, ending cruise ship passenger traffic and further complicating Cuba’s access to the global financial system. President Biden has called for a possible return to Obama-era policies, but he has made no such moves yet.

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