There is a lot of truth in the old joke that people choose a given profession just so they won’t have to do math. While this wasn’t the reason I choose to get into journalism, I will concede that it was a plus…only partially LOL.
Truth be told, I have done a lot more math in this profession than I would have thought when I got into it.
In recent days, there has been a lot of debate in Washington, D.C., about a second COVID-19 relief package and whether to reinstate the additional $600 per week federal unemployment benefit as House Democrats want. The president recently issued an executive order to implement a $400 a week unemployment benefit.
There is much debate about whether these enhanced unemployment benefits actually keep people from returning to work or looking for work.
Rather than get into who is saying what – as much as I hate to do math – let’s just look at the numbers on this for instance. Then you can make your own decision.
The median household income in the United States is $59,000, which would equate to about $28.50 per hour or about $1,140 per week. The median household income in Kentucky is $57,000 in Kentucky, which would equate to about $27.50 per hour or about $1,100 per week.
Then there is the lower end of the economic spectrum.
If you make minimum wage, which is $7.25 per hour and you work 40 hours per week, you would make $290 a week minus taxes.
Just the extra $600 a week unemployment benefit from the federal government would be twice what this person would make working. This doesn’t include what they would ordinarily get from the state in unemployment benefits. If the person had children, they could also potentially save on child care costs by not working and just drawing unemployment.
If someone made $10 per hour and worked 40 hours per week, they would make $400 a week minus taxes, or what the president’s proposed additional unemployment compensation would be per week. This doesn’t include state unemployment benefits or reduced child care costs.
You would have to make $15 per hour and work a 40 hour per week to make $600 per week, which would just equal a re-instated $600 per week federal unemployment benefit that is being discussed.
I’m no math expert, but basic arithmetic seems to provide an answer to the question of whether enhanced unemployment benefits are prompting people to stay home and not return to work. The answer is it probably depends on where on the economic spectrum you sit.
Now for a couple of other thoughts before I conclude this column.
• Happy retirement to my friend Alvin Sharpe, who retired Friday after working 40 years as Williamsburg Tourism Director. Alvin has always been a joy to work with, and he will be missed. I am happy for him being able to retire though. Here’s hoping COVID-19 clears up so Alvin and Virginia Combs can get busy with that traveling they are wanting to do.
• As many of you know, in order to keep the public better informed during this pandemic, the News Journal has been running pretty much daily updates with COVID-19 numbers on our website for Whitley County and its surrounding Kentucky counties, which as Knox, Laurel, Bell and McCreary counties.
While we will continue to keep running COVID-19 updates Monday – Friday, we have made the decision to no longer post updates on Saturday and Sunday for a few reasons.
First, health departments for two of the counties in this regional update, Whitley and Laurel counties, are not issuing updates over the weekends any more regarding COVID-19 figures. Instead health departments for these counties are choosing to include weekend cases in their Monday updates.
Second, while the Knox County Health Department hasn’t adopted a policy of not doing weekend updates, I don’t believe they have issued a Saturday or Sunday update on COVID-19 cases in at least four weeks.
While these updates aren’t necessarily hard to do, the updates are time intensive, and involve checking seven different sources to get all the information generally included in each update.