Extra Unemployment Benefits May Not Come Until Mid-April

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Unemployment benefits have been boosted and extended, but some recipients will need to wait for that money.

There's a reason lawmakers rushed to get the recently signed $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief bill passed into law. The prior relief bill, which was passed in late 2020, extended unemployment benefits for millions of jobless Americans through March 14. But lawmakers wanted the new bill in place prior to that date to avoid a gap in payments for people who rely on those benefits to stay afloat.

But now, the U.S. Department of Labor is saying that some jobless workers may not see their extra unemployment benefits arrive until mid-April or even later. And that could put many out-of-work Americans in a serious bind.

What's the holdup?

The new relief bill extended jobless benefits through early September and also boosted them by $300 a week -- the same boost that was already in place under the prior relief bill. However, the problem is that some states need time to tweak their unemployment systems to account for those new payments. They don't have the technology for such quick changes.

The result? Some jobless workers may have seen their benefits run out over the past weekend and could get stuck waiting weeks to start getting paid again. All told, an estimated 2 million Americans could find themselves in this situation.

Of course, some states are equipped to send out those extra benefits right away. In Colorado, for example, most workers will get their additional benefits without any sort of lag. But that's just one case of the system working properly. In many states, a lot of jobless folks are looking at a problematic lapse in payments.

The good news is that while unemployment benefits may be delayed, stimulus payments have already started going out. Those eligible for direct deposit may already have that money in their bank accounts. Stimulus payments may give jobless workers something to fall back on.

However, people receiving stimulus payments who didn't sign up for direct deposit will need to wait on a paper check or debit card to arrive in the mail. Since the IRS can only issue so many of those payments at a time, many people won't get their money until April. For jobless workers, that's particularly problematic, because some people may now have to go several weeks without unemployment income or a stimulus.

Those who land in that unfortunate boat shouldn't hesitate to ask for leeway on paying bills. From credit card companies to utility and internet providers, businesses have been willing to work with people in need throughout the course of the pandemic. So jobless workers who need a reprieve until they receive benefits again shouldn't hesitate to seek aid. Hopefully, the gap in payments will only be temporary.

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