By Len Ramirez

CAMPBELL (KPIX 5) – A lifeline for many during COVID-19, federal pandemic unemployment benefits will be cut off next week for millions of Californians.

“The benefits really helped me,” said Rosana Madrigal, who has been looking hard for her next job…ever since her management position with the U.S. Census Bureau ran out last year.

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In the meantime, she’s been depending on the federally-funded unemployment benefits enacted during the pandemic which gave her more than $400 a week.

“They gave me peace of mind; I didn’t have to worry about that and I could concentrate on looking for a job,” Madrigal said.

But she’s already been notified by email that her benefits will end on September 4th.

“Roughly 2 million may see their benefits end,” said Michael Bernick, employment attorney and former head of the state’s Employment Development Department.

Bernick said California will join 26 other states which have already ended the federal unemployment benefits.

“As you might expect, there is a greater return to work, but it’s not dramatic.  A lot of jobs are out there, but it’s often not always a good, easy match,” he said.

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Many of the people who lost jobs during the pandemic were in the service sector, such as restaurants.

“Since that money is running out, we might be able to get a few more employees from that,” restaurant owner Randy Musterer told KPIX 5.

Musterer, who owns Sushi Confidential restaurants in Campbell and San Jose, said he had 150 employees before the pandemic and just 60 now. He doesn’t expect a surge of new applicants because he said the pandemic changed so much.

“I think a lot of restaurant employees got shook out over the last 18 months and they found other careers,” Musterer said.

Meanwhile, Madrigal is still looking for management level work, and thinks companies have paused on hiring because of the surge driven by the Delta variant.

“I was very fortunate to get interviews, but then just crickets,” she said.

With her benefits ending, Madrigal is looking at hard choices such as early retirement, or changing careers. But she says she still has a lot to give.

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“I’m a PR person, here I am, come get me!” Madrigal said.