How women hit hard by pandemic should use their $1,400 stimulus check and other benefits

Financial advice for women who leave a job
Financial advice for women who leave a job 05:04

Tami Burch, from Chanute, Kansas, is a single mother who says she had no option but to leave her job amid the coronavirus pandemic because she could not afford childcare for her two children after school.

"It was the scariest thing I have ever done to leave my job," Burch told "CBS This Morning."

She is not alone. Nearly three million women have left the workforce during the pandemic. A Financial Times survey shows that two in five working mothers have taken a step back from work, or are considering stepping away. Many cite childcare as the reason for their departure.

On Thursday, President Biden signed the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan into law, which will deliver expanded unemployment, direct cash, and benefits to millions of Americans and women who, like Burch, are struggling to make ends meet.

CBS News business analyst Jill Schlesinger said that as those stimulus checks arrive, it is important for women struggling to save the money or use it for essentials.

"You know, I think about these women who are really struggling, and I say the most important thing you can do is save any money and we know that big checks are going to start flowing in. $1,400 stimulus checks, childcare tax credits, that money's going to come in, so do what most Americans have been doing with their excess cash, they've been saving it," Schlesinger told "CBS This Morning" co-host Gayle King.

Burch received unemployment benefits for several months, but they ended abruptly last October after she was told her account was flagged for fraud and provided all requested documents. Burch said the Kansas Department of Labor told her in January she still qualifies for benefits and that they are sorting it out. She has still not received any unemployment checks.

"I spend a good three, four hours on the phone every day if not more. I have no money. I have zero dollars," she said. With no income or savings, Burch is now $10,000 in debt.

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As daunting as debt may feel, Schlesinger said women in the same position as Burch should not prioritize debt over essentials.

"A lot of people will get some money, maybe from unemployment, they'll think, 'I should pay down my debt.' No, you need to keep that money safe and you are really looking at food first. Everything else is negotiable," she said.

Women who have lost their job suddenly should notify every person or company they may owe money to.

"Get on the record and say COVID has impacted my life and this is whether you leave voluntarily or involuntarily," Schlesinger said.

Burch is classified as voluntary separation. Before the pandemic, Burch was able to bring her 10-year-old twins to the assisted living facility where she worked. But she said when the facility went on lockdown due to the pandemic, she had to quit.

"I couldn't bring my kids to work anymore. I didn't have anybody for childcare. So of course, I had to stay home with them. I've looked for temporary jobs online where I could work from home, but there isn't anything around here that I can do without a college degree," Burch said.

Burch said she tries to keep a smile on her face for her children and tell her children that everything will be ok, but even she has doubts. She continues to look for jobs where she can work from home but she doesn't know what the future holds.

"I think it's going to take quite a bit of time to recover from this. It's going to be building from ground zero for me," she said.

After CBS News contacted the Kansas Department of Labor, it called Burch and told her it has now filed all of her claims. That now paves the way for her to get the money she is owed.