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Feeling the impact: Hoosier families face tough choices when federal unemployment benefits end

The Gresh Family
Posted at 12:46 AM, May 20, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-20 05:42:25-04

INDIANAPOLIS — Time is running out for Hoosiers collecting federal pandemic unemployment benefits.

Gov. Eric Holcomb announced this week Indiana will stop providing federal COVID-19 pandemic unemployment benefits on June 19. Those benefits were set to expire on Labor Day under the American Rescue Plan.

Holcomb and other Republican state leaders believe it's a way to help businesses find workers. However, economists said there are multiple reasons for the current labor shortage, including the lack of affordable childcare.

During the pandemic, finding a place that takes COVID-19 seriously is also a concern for families with young children. Annie and Tyler Gresh are parents who have been dealing with these challenges throughout the pandemic.

"It's been a balancing act all year with kids, work, unemployment, bills to pay," Tyler said.

The extra unemployment pandemic benefits helped the Greshes out a lot because they depended on incoming from an industry that was hit hard.

"I'm a small business owner," Tyler explained. "My business revolves around people traveling for business and pleasure. People going to large events like concerts and sporting events. Despite what some believe, the extra benefits are not allowing families to live lavishly."

"We were barely getting by when you factor in our medical expenses, mortgage," Annie added.

With the federal unemployment benefits ending means the Greshes may have to close their small business and both parents working 40 hours week. Not only does that mean they'll have to pay for childcare for two kids, but they're also putting their family's health at risk.

"My daughter who is high-risk would be more susceptible to getting COVID," Annie said.

Their 7-year-old, Harper, has Down Syndrome. Studies have shown those with genetic disorders are at greater risk of being hospitalized or worse if they catch COVID-19.

Harper and her brother, Holden, 11, have been protected these last 14 months but that could end if their parents have to take jobs outside their home.

"We're left between a rock and hard place when it comes to us, both of us going back to work and finding childcare. It's not us being lazy, it's us being practical and safe. We're not asking Holcomb to extend anything, we're just asking him to not cut it short."

The Greshes were hoping the unemployment benefits would last until their kids, both under the age of 12, could be vaccinated.