With the US unemployment rate nearly 7%, millions of Americans are facing joblessness. The unemployment provisions in the new stimulus bill offer welcome relief, providing extra unemployment funding and expanded eligibility. Although things may change once the Biden Administration takes office, here’s what you need to know now about unemployment including the federal boost, eligibility requirements, and more.
How Much Extra Will You Receive in Unemployment?
The stimulus bill provides federal funding in addition to state unemployment funding. Through the bill, each person receives an extra $300 a week, half of the boost offered through the CARES Act last year.
The $300 boost is in addition to state unemployment benefits ranging from $50 to $400 a week, which both employees and independent contractors or sole proprietors are now able to access. Sole proprietors and independent contractors are able to get unemployment benefits through a program called the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program, which expands unemployment to include them.
Some people work as both an employee and an independent contractor. For example, they might work shifts at a coffee shop and also drive for a ridesharing service. These people are eligible to receive $100 per week through a provision in the stimulus bill called Mixed Earner Unemployment Compensation (MEUC). People collecting PUA are not eligible for MEUC, only people who are collecting regular unemployment and have also lost income from independent contractor work they did in addition to it. To qualify, you must have earned at least $5000 as your own employer in the past year in addition to working for an employer. In total, those eligible for MEUC and regular unemployment will get a boost of $400 a week on top of what they receive from their state.
Who Qualifies for Unemployment?
Unemployment requirements vary slightly by state, but generally they require that you are unable to work or had your work reduced through no fault of your own (like being laid off). If you are laid off or had hours reduced from a regular, W-2 job, you will be eligible for unemployment through your state, plus the $300 federal benefits. If you have both a w-2 job and independent contract work, you will be eligible for unemployment benefits plus an extra $400 a week. If you own your own business or are self-employed, you will be eligible for unemployment benefits plus $300 a week.
The stimulus bill also extends unemployment benefits eligibility for an extra 10 weeks, so even those that have exhausted their state’s benefits can receive unemployment benefits.
How Long Does This Last?
The stimulus bill originally provided for the unemployment boost to last 11 weeks. However, President Trump took about a week to sign the bill. By the time it was signed, there were only 10 weeks remaining. The unemployment funding will last until March 13th, unless extended by the Biden Administration.
When Will the Unemployment Boost Be Distributed?
Some states have already begun distribution of the extra $300 boost, and others have said they will begin distributing next week (including DC, which was treated as a state in the bill). Here’s the full list of states who have already begun paying out the boost:
- Washington, D.C.
- New Hampshire
- New York
- North Carolina
- Rhode Island
- West Virginia
The other states will begin distributing this week or next. Keep an eye on your state’s unemployment website for the latest information, and follow along with us on the Skip blog for national unemployment and stimulus news.