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by Maurie Backman | Published on Oct. 25, 2021
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Struggling financially while out of work? Here are some options.
When the American Rescue Plan was signed into law in March, it did more than just send stimulus checks into Americans' checking accounts. It also boosted unemployment benefits by $300 a week, helping the jobless make ends meet while they looked for work. But that extra amount expired at the beginning of September, and as of now, it looks like lawmakers aren't rushing to bring it back.
In September, the national unemployment rate fell to its lowest level since the start of the pandemic. Over the past several weeks, new jobless claims have been trending lower. As such, it's easy to see why boosted unemployment isn't coming back anytime soon. Yet millions of Americans are still struggling.
If you're collecting a much lower unemployment benefit than you were through early September, you may be struggling financially as you look for work. Here are a few steps you can take to make it easier to get by.
Working part-time may not disqualify you from collecting unemployment, and it could put some money in your pocket to help cover your bills. There are many flexible part-time gigs you can do to drum up cash, like driving for a ride-hailing service or doing data entry from home. It pays to look into working in some capacity while you seek out a full-time job, especially since it could also help you avoid a lengthy resume gap. That said, talk to your state unemployment office first to see what impact your part-time income might have on your benefits, if any. Also keep in mind there are remote jobs employers are trying to fill these days.
If your unemployment income has taken a hit, now isn't the time to be shy about asking for help. Reach out to your landlord and see if you can get a temporary reduction in rent. Similarly, if you have outstanding loans, ask your loan servicers for leeway as you work to get back on your feet. You may be able to negotiate more bills than you realize.
If you're a parent and aren't getting monthly Child Tax Credit payments, it's time to register for them at GetCTC. As part of the American Rescue Plan, the Child Tax Credit is now worth up to $3,600 for children under the age of 6 and up to $3,000 for children aged 6 through 17. Half of the credit is being paid in monthly installments that began in July and are scheduled to last through the end of the year, with the remaining half being payable in 2022. That's money you don't want to miss out on if you qualify.
If you don't normally file a tax return and haven't submitted one in recent years, then the IRS may not have your information on file to send those payments your way. That's why it's important to register -- especially if you were collecting unemployment and your benefits have shrunk.
Losing a boost to unemployment benefits has no doubt hurt a lot of jobless people, especially at a time when health concerns and childcare constraints are making it harder to reenter the workforce. If you're in that boat, see if it's possible to get a part-time gig and negotiate your bills. At the same time, be sure to sign up for the Child Tax Credit if you have dependents and aren't already getting that money.
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