Last month, Congress responded to the harsh economic consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic in efforts to keep financially disadvantaged Americans afloat by passing a $2 trillion stimulus package, known as the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act. The components of the stimulus package include payments to individuals, expanded unemployment coverage, student loan changes, different retirement account rules, and more. As several million people are left struggling economically due to the coronavirus, the CARES Act will serve as financial relief.
The CARES Act also will add to existing unemployment benefits, giving jobless Americans an extra $600 a week through July 31, 2020. This new law expands the list of workers eligible to receive benefits to those Americans who usually don't qualify for unemployment benefits if their employment was affected by COVD-19. As part of the federal CARES Act, the new Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program helps unemployed Americans who are business owners, self-employed, independent contractors, have a limited work history. Others not usually eligible for regular state UI benefits, which are out of business or services, are significantly reduced as a direct result of the pandemic. The provisions of the program once operational include up to 39 weeks of benefits starting with weeks of unemployment beginning February 2, 2020, through the week ending December 31, 2020, depending on when you became directly impacted by the pandemic. Also, there will be an additional $600 given to each PUA weekly benefit amount you may be eligible to receive, as part of the separate CARES Act Pandemic Additional Compensation program. If you are one of the million employees affected by this outbreak, you might be eligible to collect unemployment benefits to assist you during this severe economic crisis. Learn more about this stimulus law that could be helpful to you, below.
Three things job seekers and furloughed employees need to know about stimulus payments.
1. The CARES Act stimulus recipients receive an extra $600 a week.
Unemployed employees receive an extra $600 a week. Americans who are approved for unemployment insurance will earn the extra money on top of the benefits they usually get from their state. If you are unemployed and have been approved for unemployment benefits from your state's labor department, you don't have to do anything to receive the extra $600 per week. If you are already approved for unemployment insurance from your state's labor department, you won't have to do anything to receive the extra $600 per week. If you are not already enrolled and approved for benefits in your state, you must do so to be eligible under the new provisions. This benefit began on March 27, 2020, and will last until July 31, 2020. Contact your state's labor department for state-specific information.
2. The CARES Act greatly expands existing unemployment benefits in several ways.
Additionally, under the CARES Act, more U.S. employers will be eligible for benefits through the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program. The following Americans could now be eligible to receive state unemployment benefits as well as the extra $600 per week:
- You have been diagnosed with COVID-19 or are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 and are seeking a medical diagnosis.
- You are unable to work because a health care provider advised you to self-quarantine due to concerns related to COVID-19.
- A member of your household has been diagnosed with COVID-19.
- You are providing care for a family member or a member of your household who has been diagnosed with COVID-19.
- A child or other person in the household for whom you have primary caregiving responsibility is unable to attend a school, or another facility that is closed as a direct result of the COVID-19 and the school or facility care is required for you to work.
- You became the breadwinner or significant support for a household because the head of the household has died as a direct result of COVID-19.
- You have to quit your job as a direct result of COVID-19.
- Your place of employment is closed as a direct result of COVID-19.
- You were scheduled to start a job that is now unavailable as a direct result of the COVID-19 public health emergency.
- You are unable to reach the place of employment as a direct result of the COVID-19 public health emergency.
- If you work as an independent contractor with reportable income, you may also qualify for PUA benefits if you are unemployed, partially employed, or unable or unavailable to work because the COVID-19 public health emergency has severely limited your ability to continue performing your usual work activities, and has thereby forcing you to stop working.
3. Unemployment benefits will be extended.
Under the CARES Act, unemployment benefits will be extended 13 weeks after benefits are exhausted in addition to the $600 provided by the federal stimulus. This extension will give Americans more time to land on their feet as they may have difficulties finding employment in the current economic climate.