unemployment money

Some states are getting ready to send out more unemployment money. 


Sarah Tew/CNET

Another pandemic relief package, with a possible second round of stimulus checks, is still in negotiation between Democrats and Republicans. With no deal in place, President Donald Trump signed four executive actions on Aug. 8, one that restarted the bonus unemployment benefit first established in the CARES Act, but for a $400 weekly total instead of the $600 weekly benefit that has now lapsed. A few states began mailing out checks in late August but only for the $300 supplemental income provided by the federal government. 

In the president’s executive memo, the federal government will contribute $300, referred to as Lost Wage Assistance (LWA), to unemployment benefits recipients. States would then need to contribute the additional $100, if not more, and they can use funds provided by the Federal Emergency Management Agency or available COVID-19 relief funds. FEMA sent out additional guidance for the program on Monday saying states can forgo kicking in the $100.

The effective date for Trump’s LWA benefit is Aug. 1 through Dec. 27. Arizona was the first state to send the $300, as of Aug. 18. Texas, Louisiana, Tennessee and Missouri began processing LWA payments this week and say recipients should see funds starting next week. 

The weekly $600 benefit, part of the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation program, was a popular feature of the initial coronavirus relief legislation package that extended federal unemployment aid to help those affected by the COVID-19 pandemic

Read more: Coronavirus unemployment: Who is covered, how to apply and how much it pays

Trump’s unemployment benefit could bring you $6,600 less

The executive memorandum signed by the president provides $300 to unemployment benefits recipients. These funds are in addition to a state’s standard payouts for those unemployed, which ranges from $300-$600 a week in most states. 

As for the additional $100 stipulated in Trump’s memo, most states already said they wouldn’t be able to afford the amount with the exception so far being West Virginia. 

How much you’ll really get

Aug. 1 – Sept. 1 Sept. 1 – Oct. 1 Oct. 1 – Nov. 1 Nov. 1 – Dec 1 Dec. 1 – Dec. 27 Total by Dec. 27
Full $400 weekly benefit (federal and state) $2,000 $1,600 $1,600 $2,000 $1,600 $8,800
Partial $300 weekly benefit (federal only) $1,500 $1,200 $1,200 $1,500 $1,200 $6,600
$600 weekly benefit (CARES Act) $3,000 $2,400 $2,400 $3,000 $2,400 $13,200

Who won’t be eligible for the additional unemployment check?

There will be some people receiving unemployment payments who will not be able to take advantage of additional funding. The US Department of Labor (PDF) on Aug. 11 sent out guidance about the eligibility requirements for the LWA. Claimants would have to be eligible for a minimum $100 from a state’s unemployment benefits program to qualify for the additional $300 federal funds. This would disqualify 1 million people, according to the New York Times. 

What states are participating? 

So far, FEMA has approved LWA for 32 states They are:

  • Alabama
  • Alaska
  • Arizona
  • Arkansas
  • California
  • Colorado
  • Connecticut
  • Georgia
  • Idaho
  • Indiana
  • Iowa
  • Kentucky
  • Louisiana
  • Maine
  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts
  • Michigan
  • Missouri
  • Mississippi
  • Montana
  • New Hampshire
  • New Mexico
  • New York
  • North Carolina
  • Oklahoma
  • Pennsylvania
  • Rhode Island
  • Tennessee
  • Texas
  • Utah
  • Vermont
  • Washington

Arizona was the first state to send out the $300 bonus, on April 17.


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Stimulus Check Standoff



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Could there still be unemployment benefits in the next stimulus bill?

Yes, but it’s going to be a hard sell by the Democrats to Republicans. The president’s executive action seemingly settled the issue between the two parties. Democrats wanted to continue the $600 weekly benefit, while Republicans wanted to lower the amount to $200 in the HEALS Act citing the original amount was leading unemployed people to not return to work. 

There is a push by more than 100 Democrats in Congress to have House Speaker Nancy Pelosi hold a vote on reinstating the $600 bonus when members of the House return on Saturday to pass a bill funding the US Postal Service

What is the HEALS Act?

The White House and Senate Republicans agreed on the terms of an aid package, with a proposal, called the HEALS Act, introduced by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on July 27. The $1 trillion package addresses several programs created or modified by the CARES Act such as unemployment insurance, the Paycheck Protection Program and Economic Income Payments.

The GOP has proposed reducing the enhanced unemployment benefit from $600 per week to $200. Then, in September, the benefit would be adjusted and combined with the states’ unemployment offerings to equal 70% of a worker’s wage. 

If Congress decides to reinstate a federal unemployment benefit bonus — in any amount — it will likely take two to four weeks for payments to flow to states and then recipients, according to the Economic Policy Institute. So far, the proposal has been introduced only in the Senate. Democratic congressional leaders are currently negotiating with the GOP on the particulars of the plan. 

What is the CARES Act?

Congress passed the $2.2 trillion CARES Act in March to help Americans and US businesses after cities began locking down due to the pandemic. Included in the package was additional unemployment aid for people who lost their jobs because of the pandemic. 

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 $600 per week has been a major component of many people’s financial lifeline. 

breaking-the-piggy-bank-stimulus-check-cash-money-savings-debt-personal-finance-015

Tens of millions of Americans face dire financial straits.


Sarah Tew/CNET

Who was 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. Because states cover 30% to 50% of a person’s wages — some states provide more while others offer less — the extra $600 from the federal government was added on to help fill the gap. 

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. 

How are 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 $600. 

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 did the CARES Act help people who are self-employed? 

The CARES Act also created the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance 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 affected by the pandemic. Under the CARES Act, PUA funding will be available until Dec. 31, 2020. 

source: cnet.com

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