by Maurie Backman | Feb. 12, 2021
Millions of Americans are counting on unemployment benefits. Here's what you need to know if you're one of them.
Many Americans are struggling financially during the coronavirus pandemic, and that includes those who have fallen victim to layoffs. Right now, jobless workers are entitled to an extra $300 a week in unemployment on top of their state benefits, plus an extension of state benefits through March 14. And due to the way federal benefits are phasing out, some may continue to collect some unemployment income through April 11.
But given the greater economic crisis, it's clear that those who are presently out of work may need more than just another four to seven weeks of aid. To this end, President Joe Biden has previously proposed extending unemployment benefits through the end of September as part of his $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package. Biden also wants to give unemployment benefits a boost to $400 a week during that time.
Democratic lawmakers are largely on board with his proposal. But the House Ways and Means Committee is putting together its own stimulus proposal that differs from what the president initially called for. Specifically, they're looking to boost jobless benefits to $400 a week, but cut off that additional aid on Aug. 29, as opposed to the end of September.
Many people who are out of work have been in that situation for months. In fact, an estimated 39.5% of unemployed workers have been jobless for more than half a year. As such, cutting off extended unemployment benefits a month earlier than what Biden wants could hurt the long-term unemployed -- those who might struggle the most to get back into the labor force. It could also be an exceptionally hard hit to workers in industries that have been battered by the pandemic and aren't adding jobs quickly. These include restaurants, hotels, and even retailers.
Another problem with cutting off jobless aid a month earlier is that Congress usually isn't in session in August, so if unemployment benefits expire at a time when a large chunk of the labor force still needs aid, there could be a huge gap in getting that help to them.
Those who were out of work last summer experienced something similar. On July 31, the CARES Act expired, and with it, the $600 weekly boost jobless workers were getting in their benefits went away. Lawmakers then proceeded to haggle over a second stimulus package for months before coming to a deal in late December, at which point unemployment got a $300 weekly boost.
Of course, some lawmakers are likely to step up and push for an end-of-September extension as Biden has previously called for. Either way, it's imperative that lawmakers work quickly on a final relief measure. With state unemployment benefits set to expire on March 14, many jobless workers can't afford a gap in payments -- especially since many have no money in the bank to fall back on.
Americans are also eager to know when they can expect a third stimulus check. Lawmakers seem to be in agreement on sending out $1,400 payments to the public, but the income thresholds at which those payments will phase out or get cut off are still up for debate.
Nancy Pelosi recently stated that a relief bill could pass within the next two weeks. That means Americans could see their stimulus cash by early March, and given the number of people who are struggling, that's a very good thing.
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