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Thursday, February 25, 2021

Your $300 federal unemployment benefit is ending. Here’s everything you need to know

unemployment money

FEMA is running out of bonus unemployment money.

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Sarah Tew

The “skinny” stimulus bill failed to pass in the Senate on Thursday, and with it went additional funding for unemployment benefits until the end of 2020. This comes at a terrible time as some states are coming to the end of the allotted six weeks of Lost Wages Assistances provided by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. 

President Donald Trump signed an executive memo on Aug. 8 to restart the weekly unemployment bonus that expired at the end of July. This memo was one of four executive actions to help give some financial relief to those affected by the COVID-19 pandemic while Democrats and Republicans failed to negotiate on another relief package that might have included a second round of stimulus checks. To pay for the LWA, the president ordered FEMA to use leftover COVID-19 relief funds to pay the $300 weekly bonus to states for six weeks — the memo called for a state to provide an additional $100 although that has since been made optional. Since the executive action had an effective date of Aug. 1, those states that already received and sent out LWA to unemployment recipients have reached their six weeks, meaning the bonus checks will come to an end soon. 

The Texas Workforce Commission sent notices Wednesday saying the last LWA check would be for the week of Sept. 5. It says it wouldn’t be able to provide additional funds without further federal action, but those who qualified for the weekly bonus will receive all six weeks of checks. State labor agencies in Arizona, Iowa and Utah announced the end of the LWA for unemployment recipients who will continue to receive the states’ weekly benefit. 

With the latest stimulus bill failing in the Senate, there are discussions in the White House for additional executive actions according to a report from the Washington Post on Wednesday. This would be similar to what President Trump did in August and could include additional unemployment funding and improvements to his payroll tax holiday that has yet to be effective workers. 

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 48 states along with Guam and Washington D.C. Arizona was the first state to send out the $300 bonus, on Aug. 17.

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. 

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. 


Tens of millions of Americans face dire financial straits.

Sarah Tew

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. 

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