CORONAVIRUS

$600 Unemployment benefits: 31 July deadline, will it be extended?

The official deadline is 31 July but several states have applied to extend that with the CARES Act continuing to help with unemployment benefits.

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$600 Unemployment benefits: 31 July deadline, will it be extended?
GEORGE FREY AFP

America’s unemployment has skyrocketed to double digits since the outbreak of the coronavirus. Some analysis suggests it could even be worse than what is being reported. The Great Depression was the worst period in American employment history with 24.9% of people out of work. The US government are being asked to help with unemployment benefits with so many of its citizens struggling.

US citizens who lost their jobs were given help from the government but the unemployment benefits are unlikely to last beyond July. The CARES Act -- Coronavirus Aid, Response and Economic Security -- expanded unemployment insurance for struggling Americans. One of the provisions built into the CARES Act, an unemployment benefit, currently $600 a week for those eligible, will end after July 31. Some states are ending it a week earlier, on July 25.

That $600 is a lot higher than the $378 a week in state unemployment benefits prior to the relief law, according to the Labor Department. The law boosts that weekly total to $978 a week — a 159% increase. The HEROES Act could change that and continue to help Americans who are unemployed but it is still being negotiated.

More than 42 million Americans have filed for unemployment since the coronavirus pandemic hit the U.S. and they are looking for assurances over their financial futures. Donald Trump says the economy is on the way back to normal after a 'Great Day' saw unemployment drop by 1.4 percent. Further studies suggest that the payment could slow down recovery of the economy and Republicans are using that to forge their argument against an extension.

Will I lose my unemployment benefits on July 31?

Even if there isn't an extension, some benefits will remain from the CARES Act. In most states, unemployment benefits last for up to 26 weeks. But the CARES Act extended eligibility to 39 weeks total. For states that continue to have high unemployment rates, additional weeks of federally funded extended benefits will be available (up to 13 or 20 weeks, depending on state laws). According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP), these extended benefits have been triggered in 44 states as of June 1.  Even if the weekly $600 isn’t extended, Americans are still covered by expanded unemployment provisions in the CARES Act but it will depend on how long you have been receiving benefits for and which state you are in.

U.S. Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) is offering new legislation to expand and enhance pandemic unemployment insurance. Reed’s bill would improve Unemployment Insurance (UI) provisions in the CARES Act and continue to offer out of work Americans a $600-per-week economic booster shot beyond July 31, through the end of the year.

“The economic pain and uncertainty people are feeling is real. Bills are piling up and coronavirus has taken people’s steady paychecks. Refusing to extend unemployment insurance in the midst of an ongoing pandemic could make a desperate situation worse for individuals and harm the economy. Being jobless in these uncertain times and relying on unemployment is stressful enough. If Congress arbitrarily cuts them off and tries to prematurely push them into unsafe work environments, it will cost families, businesses, and communities alike,” said Senator Reed.

Democrats have proposed a $3 trillion coronavirus spending package named the HEROES Act to help citizens and to fend off a complete collapse of society. That money would be poured into social programs as well and implement another round of direct payments to further mitigate the fallout.

Republicans are pushing against it though. Nancy Pelosi has said the Democrats have put their cards on the table with the passing go the new bill but it’s still not a law. "We’re putting our offer on the table, we’re open to negotiation," Pelosi said on Thursday, acknowledging the long odds of the bill becoming law.