unemployment money

Will the extra $600 from the CARES Act get an extension or a downgrade? 


Sarah Tew/CNET

Congress passed the $2.2 trillion CARES Act to help Americans and US businesses after cities began locking down due to the coronavirus pandemic. Included in the March package was additional unemployment aid for people who lost their jobs because of the pandemic. That extra funding officially ends July 31, though, for many, their $600 payments will stop this weekend. Congress has yet to approve a new package or extension for these extra funds, but Senate Republicans will reveal their aid package on Monday, which should include more help for unemployed Americans. 

Since shelter-in-place rules were put in place, tens of millions of Americans have received the extra federal unemployment aid. With states providing between $235 and $1,220 per week in assistance, the additional $300 to $600 per week in Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation is a major component of many people’s financial lifeline. 

When the program launched in late March, it was scheduled to last for four months, ending on July 31. We’re almost there, and so far, Congress has not approved an extension. There is talk of a short-term solution as Congress deliberates on a new economic stimulus package. One plan considered by Senate Republicans will reduce the $600 weekly payment to $100. 

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said the GOP’s plan will be based on “approximately 70% wage replacement,” CNBC reported July 23.  President Donald Trump’s payroll tax suspension won’t be included in this upcoming package, but Mnuchin said it could be included in future legislation. The Republican plan, a response to the Heroes Act that the Democrat-led House of Representatives passed in May, is expected to be introduced as legislation next week.

Read on for all the details about unemployment benefits. 

Who is eligible for enhanced unemployment? 

If you’ve been laid off or furloughed, you’re eligible to apply for unemployment benefits from the state where you live. Once the state approves your claim, you’re eligible to receive whatever state benefits you’re entitled to — as well as FPUC funding up to $600 per week, provided by the federal government.

How does the CARES Act help people who have been laid off or furloughed? 

Each state has its own criteria for who is eligible to receive unemployment — and what those benefits entail. This includes how much money you’re eligible to receive, which is usually based on your income, and how long you’re eligible to receive it, which is usually based on how long you held your most recent job. The CARES Act provided a booster fund — adding up to $600 extra per week — while also extending states’ unemployment benefits to a maximum of 39 weeks instead of the typical 26 weeks. 

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The CARES Act extra $600 unemployment benefit ends July 31.


Angela Lang/CNET

How are my unemployment benefits calculated?

The state determines how much each applicant will receive, usually based on an individual’s gross income. It varies from state to state but is typically between $300 and $500. 

How can I find out if I’m eligible for unemployment benefits?

Eligibility criteria vary from state to state, but the general rule is that you should apply if you’ve lost your job or been furloughed through no fault of your own. This would include a job lost directly or indirectly to the current pandemic. 

How are different states handling this?

Again, the benefit duration and amount varies. Most states provide up to 26 weeks of funding though others, such as Georgia, limit benefits to 12 weeks. On the other hand, Delaware will provide benefits for up to 30 weeks. The weekly benefit amount depends on an applicant’s gross income when they were employed and ranges between $300 and $600, with some exceptions. Mississippi pays up to $235, while Massachusetts’ maximum is $1,220.

Where can I find more information about my state’s policy?

Each state’s labor office provides more information about its particular unemployment benefits.

How does the CARES Act help people who are self-employed? 

The CARES Act also created the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program, which provides benefits to individuals who would not normally be eligible for unemployment benefits from the states such as gig workers, freelancers, independent contractors and small business owners whose income has been impacted by the pandemic. Under the CARES Act, PUA funding will be available until Dec. 31, 2020. 

When exactly does the $600 booster fund end?

While the Cares Act’s FPUC expires on July 31, those who received the extra money may see it go away a few days before the end of the month. A statement from the Department of Labor on June 24 said, “The $600 can be paid for weeks ending no later than the week ending prior to Friday, July 31,” according to USA Today. All states with the exception of one have Saturday as the date to claim unemployment — New York does this on Sunday. This claim is then paid in the first half of the week depending on the state. This means people receiving FPUC will receive their final additional $600 prior to July 31.

What efforts are underway to extend enhanced unemployment benefits?

Congressional Democrats continue to push for an extension of unemployment benefits. The Heroes Act passed by the House of Representatives in May, but not by the Senate, would extend FPUC to Jan. 31, 2021. It would also pave the way for a second stimulus payment. 

The Worker Relief and Security Act has been proposed by Democrats Sen. Michael Bennet, Sen. Jack Reed and Rep. Don Beyer. It would extend unemployment benefits until Trump declares that the state of emergency for COVID-19 is over. At that point, benefits would continue for another 30 days and then come to a close. Those still on unemployment would still receive weekly funds, but the amount would be reduced over the course of 13 weeks depending on the unemployment rate of each state. 

Both proposals have been opposed by Republicans, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. GOP leaders have taken issue with the enhanced unemployment saying it discourages workers to return to their jobs. Sen. Lindsey Graham said in April that reauthorization of the unemployment benefits would get passed “over our dead bodies.” McConnell said on July 6 that the next relief bill could contain a second stimulus check for those making $40,000 a year or less. 

Mnuchin told Bloomberg on June 23 that there are discussions of another stimulus bill. He said, however, it would focus on the businesses most affected by the pandemic.  

On July 1, Senate Democrats introduced a bill to extend unemployment aid until March. The money made available would be tied to the state’s unemployment rate. When a state’s three-month average unemployment rate goes below 11%, the amount of aid would be reduced by $100 until the average gets under 6%. 

A plan that Congressional Republicans are considering is to drop the $600 weekly benefit to $100 according to CNBC. There are talks to pass a short-term extension of the additional funds while Congress debates on the new aid package and before the August recess. 

The White House and Senate Republicans agreed on the terms of an aid package. Details will not be released until Monday, and legislation will be introduced sometime next week. 

Even if Congress does extend the aid before July 31, it will take two to four weeks for states to reinstate the benefits according to the Economic Policy Institute. 

What happens on July 31 if no additional legislation is passed?

That additional $600 weekly bump will be discontinued. Those still eligible for unemployment benefits will continue to receive them from their states. 

source: cnet.com

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