$400 unemployment benefits: can I work and get the extra money?

Many Americans receiving partial unemployment benefits are wondering if they are entitled to the extra $400 in Donald Trump's executive orders.

$400 unemployment benefits: can I work and get the extra money?
Stefani Reynolds GTRES

With Congressional Democrats and Republicans unable to come to a deal on a new economic stimulus package last Friday, US President Donald Trump decided to take matters into his own hands by passing a series of executive orders aimed at supporting American’s struggling financially due to the coronavirus pandemic.

One of those executive orders singed by Trump last Saturday extended the $600 unemployment benefit that was approved under CARES Act in March but expired on July 25. However, the extended benefit has been set at $400, with the federal government covering $300 of that figure and the states expected to cover the remaining $100.

It remains to be seen if and what states will be willing to pay this $100 share. Ohio’s Republican Gov. Mike DeWine has already stated that his administration would accept the federal government's $300 per week enhanced unemployment benefits but would not top it up with the additional $100. In that way, Ohioans would receive a bonus unemployment payment valued at $300, not $400.

Who is entitled to the $400 unemployment benefit?

While the previous $600 benefit boost was directed to all qualifying individuals receiving unemployment benefits from their state, the new $400 benefit will only go to those people receiving $100 or more per week in state unemployment aid. And this enhanced benefit will be paid on top of a person’s state benefits, as was the case with the $600 benefit.

So a person receiving the average $378 a week in state unemployment benefits would receive $378 + the $400 benefit boost, giving them a total of $778 per week. Although, that is if there state is willing to pay the $100 contribution – if not, they would receive $100 less, working out at $678.

Can you get the $400 unemployment benefit benefit if you are working?

If you are working part time and are entitled to partial unemployment benefit, then, in theory, yes. However partial unemployment benefit rules are complicated and vary between states.
The amount of Partial Unemployment Benefit state benefits you receive will depend on how much you are earning from part-time work. But to qualify, you must be receiving state benefits of $100 or more, as stipulated in Trumps executive order.

Calculating Partial Unemployment Benefit amounts

To figure out your weekly partial benefit amount, your state will calculate how much you would get if you were completely unemployed, and then will subtract what you are actually earning from that figure, taking into account a small allowance (as most states allow you to retain a small portion of your earnings to encourage you to take occasional work).

Here are a few examples from a report on Employment Law Firms by attorney and NOLO legal editor, Sachi Barreiro:

Example 1: David works in California and would be entitled to a weekly unemployment benefit of $400, based on his prior earnings. He currently earns $280 per week at his job because his hours and pay have been cut. California disregards the first $25 or one-quarter of an employee's earnings (whichever is more) in calculating partial unemployment benefits. The state would not count one-quarter of his earnings ($70), but would subtract the rest ($210) from the weekly benefit he would receive if he were unemployed ($400) to come up with his partial benefit amount: $190.

Example 2: Susan works in Washington, D.C. and would be eligible for a weekly unemployment benefit of $300, based on her prior earnings. She was laid off from her job, and she currently earns $250 per week from a part-time job. The District of Columbia disregards one-fifth of her earnings plus $20, in calculating partial unemployment benefits. Based on this formula, the state would take her earnings of $250 and subtract $70 (one-fifth of her earnings is $50, plus $20). The remaining number, $180, is then subtracted from $300 (the amount she would receive if fully employed), for a partial benefit of $120.

In both cases, David and Susan would qualify for the new $400 supplemental unemployment benefit because the amount they already receive in state benefits is $100 or more. But to be sure that you qualify, the best thing to do is contact your state unemployment agency to learn more about their rules on partial unemployment benefits.

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