$300 bonus unemployment checks: More states sending payments. What you should know


More unemployment checks are on the way. 

Sarah Tew/CNET

More than $160 billion in second stimulus checks made their way to millions of Americans, according to the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget Friday. This round of payments comes from a $900 billion COVID-19 relief package passed by Congress in December as part of a $2.3 trillion omnibus spending bill. Along with the second stimulus checks (here’s how to track your payment), the bill grants 11 weeks of $300 weekly unemployment bonus. The payments come just as the Labor Department announced 140,000 jobs were lost in December. 

On Jan. 5, the US Department of Labor issued guidance to the states on how to allocate relief funds for unemployed workers. Several states already informed recipients via email or social media of the upcoming bonus checks, but the majority are still weeks away from sending out the additional money. 

A contributor to the delay came from President Donald Trump, who waited five days before signing the stimulus bill to release the checks. Trump’s gambit to raise the $600 maximum for the second stimulus check to $2,000 failed to be picked up for a vote in the Senate by Jan. 3, the same day the new Congress (now controlled by Democrats) was sworn in. The result meant a longer wait for renewed federal unemployment benefits to kick in, on top of the state allowance.

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

How long will the $300 extra unemployment checks last?

At this point, the new checks should start to arrive soon, though it depends on how long it’ll take the states to begin processing payments. Checks are authorized to last until March 14, but there’s an overflow period that lasts until April 5 for those who exhausted their state’s benefits before the expiration date. 

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Are the $300 bonus checks retroactive at all?

Though the language of the stimulus bill doesn’t specify whether the unemployment bonus is retroactive, that doesn’t appear to be the case, The Washington Post has reported. Observers don’t expect that we’ll see a federally instituted lump sum payment to make up for previous weeks of not receiving a $300 check.

What is Mixed Earner Unemployment Compensation? How do I qualify?

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

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


Sarah Tew/CNET

With Mixed Earner Unemployment Compensation, a person who made more money from self-employment or a 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’d receive benefits for the $30,000 via PUA or $20,000 via unemployment insurance but not a combination of the two. 

Though someone who works 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’d 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. 

What are the $300 bonus weekly check qualifications? 

If you’ve been laid off or furloughed, you’re qualified 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 single sum you could expect on a national basis.  

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 the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). These were offered for only six weeks to states that applied (which means all except South Dakota). Those receiving PUA would also receive the $300 bonus. 


Sarah Tew/CNET

Do I qualify for the extra 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 coronavirus pandemic

How does my state calculate unemployment insurance amounts?

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 do states handle unemployment checks?

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

How can I see my state’s unemployment benefit policy?

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

If you’re interested in stimulus checks, here’s what we know so far about the bid for a $2,000 per person stimulus payment and what’s been said so far about a third stimulus check in 2021

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