by Maurie Backman | Feb. 11, 2021
Extended unemployment benefits are set to run out as early as March -- but Nancy Pelosi is confident relief will be here sooner.
Millions of Americans have lost their jobs in the course of the coronavirus pandemic. For some workers, unemployment was, thankfully, a temporary situation. For others, it was more long term. And then there are those who are still unemployed and rely on jobless benefits to stay afloat in the absence of savings.
The jobless rate has slowly but steadily declined since reaching a peak in April of 2020. But it's still significantly higher than it was before the pandemic began. And so unemployment benefits are a lifeline for many people.
A relief package passed in December included a $600 stimulus check as well as boosted and extended unemployment. Since then, those eligible for jobless benefits have been getting an extra $300 a week and will continue to do so until mid-March. That's when extended unemployment will generally expire, although in some cases, recipients may be in line for extended benefits through April.
But on Feb. 11, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said jobless workers shouldn't worry about their unemployment benefits expiring. The reason? She's confident a coronavirus relief bill will be passed into law before the middle of March.
In January, President Biden revealed the details of his $1.9 trillion stimulus proposal. Highlights include a round of $1,400 stimulus checks and boosted and extended unemployment. Specifically, there'd be $400 weekly federal boost to unemployment benefits on top of what states pay. Jobless benefits would also be extended through the end of September.
If lawmakers drag their feet on Biden's relief proposal and don't pass the bill by the middle of March, those receiving unemployment payments could face a gap in income. But Pelosi is confident that won't be an issue. In fact, there's a good chance a relief package will be passed into law by the end of this month. That means jobless workers can breathe a sigh of relief and those anticipating more stimulus cash can finally start to look forward to it.
One thing to note is that the House Ways and Means Committee is proposing a few changes to Biden's original relief bill. Specifically, they're looking to lower the income thresholds at which people can receive a stimulus check and cut those payments off for higher earners. They're also looking to give unemployment benefits the $400 weekly boost Biden proposed, but cut off extended benefits a month earlier -- by August 29.
Either way, it's clear lawmakers want to extend unemployment benefits and keep a generous boost in place. Previous analysis found that increasing weekly benefits by $400 would replace 86% of the average jobless worker's former paycheck. And with lawmakers moving quickly, those who rely on benefit cash may not have to worry about a payment gap. At a time when so many people are dealing with so many layers of financial stress, that's a very positive thing.
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