More than 7.5 million Americans are facing financial struggles as federal COVID-19 unemployment benefits expired at the beginning of September.

On Sept. 1, the benefits expired in the 26 states that were still handing them out. Many other states stopped distributing those benefits earlier, but they did not see much job growth — according to federal data from April to July, the states that cut off benefits early saw just under a point in growth, while those that kept the benefits saw nearly twice as much growth.

People who lost the benefits said they were starting to panic.

“My inner voice is just me yelling and screaming: ‘What am I going to do? What am I going to do? What am I going to do?'” said Gustavo Maria.

And while companies are trying to fill positions with incentives like signing bonuses, people said wages were still not high enough to live — and that the surge of the Delta variant made going back to many jobs unsafe.

“We’re still in a pandemic. The idea of being close to hundreds of strangers a day, even while being vaccinated, that’s not something that appeals to me in any way,” said Michael Kittle.

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