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I’m writing in response to the June 17 Courier article, “Congressman Doug Lamborn chats with Teller County officials, business owners about pandemic hardships.”

Lamborn indicates that unemployment benefits discourage the unemployed from working is bursting with misinformation. If his information comes from social media sources, then it is time for some facts.

The prevalent myth on social media claiming that the unemployed will receive $24 an hour is an oversimplification that does not consider states’ varying unemployment distribution calculations that are in part determined by income level. Although you don’t mention a specific amount in the interview you also don’t mention the source of your information

While it is possible that some people may receive the equivalent of $24 an hour from unemployment benefits, not everyone will. Many variables determine the unemployment benefits a person receives such as the very low wages and therefore unemployment benefits paid in some southern states.

The pre-COVID-19 poverty level in Teller County is officially 7.4%, but according to the Federal Reserve of St. Louis it may be as high as 8.3% or higher.

According to the Federal Register, the poverty level is defined as $25,100 for a family of four. That translates to $12.07 an hour. If you pander to sweeping generalizations that everyone in unemployment is making more while unemployed as opposed to working then you fail to understand an assortment of variables that factor into the amount a person gets in unemployment.

The misinformation that went out on social media about unemployment recipients getting $24 per hour has been debunked. Since many of the citizens in Teller work in the service industries, it’s likely they were eligible for the $600 bonuses under the CARES Act and, yes, if they were at or around the current minimum wage, they did make over their gross salary amount.

Again, that is not the case for everyone because of varying unemployment distribution calculations. If you factor the amount of time between applying for unemployment and receiving the first unemployment check, you need to consider a “compassionate factor” for those who seriously fell behind on their bills.

Congressman Lamborn, your privilege is showing. Please consider that the food pantries in the county can’t keep the shelves stocked. Is that enough anecdotal evidence that the people in Teller County are hurting. Food prices are hiking up. Can the extra $600 help out a family? Yes, and more so if they are not eligible for SNAP. The $600 bonus was agreed to by both parties because of the antiquated systems that run most unemployment programs around the country and this was the most expedient way to get money into the hands of people that were unemployed. These benefits will run out at the end of July.

We all want this pandemic to go away but we will not, and should not, go back to the way things were before. Let’s face it, it’s going to be a long time before things improve. According to Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell, unemployment may hit 25%. Perhaps this is an opportunity to put farsightedness into play and plan ahead of the curve and make changes that afford everyone a living wage and that provides enough income to afford health care and to pay for quality child care.

Congressman Lamborn, you are in the enviable position to change the archetypal mechanisms that keep so many of our citizens at the poverty level.

Emilia Paul, her husband and their two dogs live in the shadow of Pikes Peak. She came to America from Mexico at the age of 8 when her father was recruited due to a shortage of doctors in rural Illinois. She holds a bachelor’s degree in media communications and a master’s in English rhetoric and composition. After 33 years working in higher education, she retired as an associate vice president of student life from Metropolitan State University of Denver.

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