$300 weekly unemployment check: Start date, is it retroactive, how long will it last?

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Lawmakers continue negotiations on a bill to extend benefits. 


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A new stimulus package worth $900 billion is expected to come to its first Congressional vote on Monday in the House of Representatives. The bipartisan COVID-19 relief bill, which was solidified on Sunday after months of fruitless negotiations, includes a weekly federal unemployment insurance check for $300 and a second stimulus check for a onetime payment of up to $600, plus an additional flat $600 per qualified child dependent. However, until Congress votes on the proposed stimulus bill, it isn’t completely cemented into place how long the renewed federal benefits would last.

At first, the bipartisan plan called for 16 weeks of the unemployment insurance, which would take jobseekers to April. After some back and forth, that coverage window may have narrowed to 10 weeks, The Washington Post reported Dec. 17. Now it appears that jobseekers could receive coverage for 11 weeks. Meanwhile, new jobless claims had reached 885,000 for the week ending Dec. 12, which is 23,000 higher than the week before, the Department of Labor reported Dec 17.

We’re here to answer as many questions as we can, given the current information available, including when the stimulus package could pass, if the weekly unemployment bonus would include retroactive payments, and who would meet the eligibility requirements. We recently updated this story with new details.


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When would the $300 per week unemployment bonus be retroactive?

The stimulus package under consideration would not make unemployment benefits retroactive, according to The Washington Post. This means there won’t be a lump sum payment to make up for previous weeks of not receiving a $300 check. They could start as early as Dec. 27, the Post reported Sunday.

When will the $300 weekly unemployment insurance become official?

The $900 billion stimulus bill could get a vote in the House of Representatives as early as Monday, before moving on to the Senate and then being signed by President Donald Trump. We’re looking at Wednesday at the latest if all goes well.

Again, the proposal could also include a second stimulus check and funding for a variety of programs. This economic relief package is seen more as a stopgap bill than sweeping legislation, and is aimed at helping the economy and US residents through the early months of President-elect Joe Biden’s administration. There could be another, larger stimulus package in early 2021. Here’s how changes to Congress could play a role.

What happens to unemployment benefits next?

For millions of unemployed workers, Dec. 26 is the last check they’ll receive as benefits created by the CARES Act in March are set to expire on Dec. 31. 

When those $300 checks will be sent out depends on how quickly the states can turn around and send out the money. Dec. 27 is one possible date flagged by The Washington Post, but that response time could differ from state to state. 

Why? The federal government is funding these payments, but it’s the states that actually process the funds. Timing will vary when considering that states approved for the weekly $300 Lost Wages Assistance back in August took weeks or months to process payments. 

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Tens of millions of Americans face dire financial straits.


Sarah Tew/CNET

Who could qualify for the extra $300 unemployment check? 

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 can apply to receive whatever state benefits you’re entitled to. Because states cover 30% to 50% of a person’s wages, there’s no one lump sum you could get nationally. 

When the CARES Act passed in March, it provided unemployed workers with a weekly bonus check of $600 on top of the amount the state was offering, but those payments ended in July. President Donald Trump’s executive memo signed on Aug. 8 reinstated a bonus weekly check for a reduced $300 funded by the federal government through FEMA. These were only offered for six weeks to those states who applied, which were all of them except for South Dakota. 

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. Those receiving PUA would also receive the $300 bonus. Under the CARES Act, PUA funding will be available until Dec. 31 but for many, their last payment will be on Dec. 26. 

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For millions of Americans, time is running out.


Sarah Tew/CNET

How are the unemployment benefits calculated?

The state determines how much each applicant receives, usually based on an individual’s gross income. It varies from state to state but is typically between $300 and $600. 

Do I qualify for my state’s 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 because of the pandemic. 

How are the 50 states handling unemployment insurance?

Most states provide up to 26 weeks of funding, though others, such as Georgia, limited benefits to 12 weeks. On the other hand, Delaware extended 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 had paid up to $235, while Massachusetts’ maximum has been $1,220. Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation from the CARES Act added an additional 13 weeks funded by the federal government, but another stimulus bill with unemployment insurance would need to pass in order to extend it further. 

Where can I get more details about my state’s unemployment policy?

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



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