$300 weekly unemployment checks officially approved for 10 weeks as stimulus bill becomes law


A second stimulus package will extend unemployment insurance benefits by 10 weeks, because of a delay in signing the bill into law.

Sarah Tew/CNET

On Saturday night, things were looking glum. A $300 weekly unemployment insurance check from the government to augment any benefit from individuals states lapsed that day, without a replacement waiting in the wings. Roughly twenty-four hours later, the situation changed — mostly — after President Donald Trump signed a COVID-19 relief/funding package Sunday night that would extend the extra federal unemployment checks for 11 weeks. However, there’s a catch.

The stimulus package benefits, according to the language in the bill, were meant to kick in Dec. 26, the day before Trump approved the legislation. His delay in signing the bill means it will take a few days for government agencies and states to organize, shrinking the bonus unemployment benefit window from 11 weeks to 10, at a loss of $300 per jobseeker.

Trump’s hesitation in approving the bipartisan package stemmed from his criticism of the $600 second stimulus check being too small — it comes in at half the upper limit of March’s $1,200 stimulus check. Instead, Trump wants Congress to amend the bill it already passed and raise the total possible second stimulus check to $2,000 per eligible adult, despite the fact that earlier in the month, the White House administration offered a $600 check as part of a different stimulus plan.

Whether the size of the second stimulus check jumps to $2,000 or remains at $600 a head, benefits for jobseekers are expected to remain static, including the $300 weekly bonus payment, the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program for gig workers and the benefits provided by the states.

One new relief included in the bill is the Mixed Earner Unemployment Compensation, which provides an additional $100 a week for those unemployed workers who earned money from a standard job and from self-employment, although states will individually determine if they will receive that amount. 

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

When are the $300 bonus weekly unemployment checks supposed to start up again?

The first date for the bill to go into effect, Dec. 26, has come and gone. The checks are authorized to last until March 14, 2021. This extension also has an overflow period that lasts until April 5, 2021, which means a person who finds themselves unemployed in early 2021 would receive an additional three weeks of aid. 

The spending bill also includes a second stimulus check and funding for a variety of programs. There could be a larger stimulus package in early 2021 when President-elect Joe Biden takes office. Here’s how changes to Congress could play a role.

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Will the next $300 weekly unemployment bonus checks be retroactive?

While the language of the bill does not specify if the unemployment bonus is retroactive or not, that does not appear to be the case, The Washington Post reported. This means they’re likely won’t be a federally instituted lump sum payment to make up for previous weeks of not receiving a $300 check.

New benefit: Mixed Earner Unemployment Compensation

In the original CARES Act, the bill had unemployed workers either get their benefits from the state through unemployment insurance or through a federal program called Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA). Someone who worked as a gig worker, self-employed, freelancer or contractor who doesn’t typically receive unemployment benefits if they’re laid off could receive PUA instead. 

In the language of the bill, however, someone who earned a combination of income from a traditional job and a contractor job would either receive the unemployment insurance payment or the PUA, and not a combination of both. 


Tens of millions of Americans face financial catastrophe unless more money is approved.

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With Mixed Earner Unemployment Compensation, a person who made more money from their self-employment or contracting job — that requires a 1099 form — could receive an extra $100 a week. For example, let’s say you made $50,000 in 2019, which was split with $30,000 coming from a contractor job and $20,000 from a part-time job at a company. If you were laid off, the state unemployment office would calculate whether you would receive benefits for the $30,000 via PUA or $20,000 via unemployment insurance but not a combination of the two. 

While someone who worked a traditional job and makes $50,000 a year in New York would receive $480 a week from unemployment insurance, by having a mix of the two, you would get the greater of the two different amounts which would be the PUA of $288 a week rather than the $280 from unemployment. 

Mixed Earner Unemployment Compensation will now give that person an extra $100, but only if the state participates. It may be some time before states will determine whether they will or not after the bill gets passed. 

Who could qualify for the bonus $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. 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. 


For millions of Americans, time is almost out.

Sarah Tew/CNET

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. 

Would I qualify for federal unemployment insurance?

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 would unemployment insurance be 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. 

How are individual states handling unemployment benefits?

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 (PEUC) 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. The latest COVID-19 relief package would add another 11 weeks of PEUC. 

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

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

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