The COVID-19 pandemic struck the national economy with speed and severity, shuttering businesses and sending millions of workers home with no clear means of making ends meet. In response to the economic shock, federal officials passed a series of significant financial stimulus packages – notably including a wide expansion of unemployment benefits for out-of-work Americans. Those federal unemployment programs expired in September, but they provided crucial financial support for households in the U.S. and in Nevada while the nation grappled with the devastating effects of the pandemic and related response.

Amid the initial shock of the pandemic recession, initial unemployment claims exploded in Nevada, rising to 208,900 new claims in March 2020 and 207,200 the next month as Nevada’s unemployment rate spiked to 29.7 percent. The number of initial claims in March 2020 alone was nearly five times higher than the previous single-month record of 36,400 initial claims set in December 2008. Over the past 18 months, more than 1 million initial unemployment claims were filed in Nevada. For reference, it took 49 months after the onset of the Great Recession to reach the same number of claims. An additional 1.1 million initial claims were filed during that time under the temporary federal program for freelancers, gig workers and other self-employed workers who aren’t covered by regular unemployment programs.

For the many thousands of workers left unemployed due to the pandemic and related response, the combination of regular unemployment programs plus several enhanced programs created through various federal stimulus packages provided billions of dollars in payments that helped bridge the financial chasm. In Nevada, these programs disbursed $13 billion in funds to the state’s unemployed workers between March 2020 and September 2021. Of that total, just $3.8 billion derived from the state’s regular unemployment insurance fund. The remaining $9.3 billion came from pandemic-related programs, with the lion’s share of $8.7 billion sourced directly from the temporary federal programs that expired in early September. These benefits helped buoy household budgets and boost economic activity while the labor market recovered.

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