CORONAVIRUS

Unemployment benefits eligibility: who will qualify for new stimulus?

After President Trump backed down and signed the bill on Sunday, the CARES Act’s Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) extends the program by at least 11 weeks into March 2021.

Unemployment benefits eligibility: who will qualify for new stimulus?
OLIVIER DOULIERY AFP

Democrats in the US Congress will try to push through expanded pandemic relief payments for Americans after President Donald Trump backed down from a fight with lawmakers that could have shut down the federal government.

In a sudden reversal late on Sunday, Trump signed into law a $2.3 trillion pandemic aid and spending package, restoring unemployment benefits to millions of Americans and providing funds to keep government agencies running.

Trump, who leaves office on 20 January after losing November's election to President-elect Joe Biden, retreated from his threat to block the bill, which was approved by Congress last week.

HEALTH-CORONAVIRUS/USA-TESTFILE PHOTO: U.S. President Donald Trump

14 million unemployed to benefit

Unemployment benefits being paid out to about 14 million people through pandemic programs lapsed on Saturday but will be restarted now that Trump has signed the bill.

The delay, however, forced people to lose a week of some federal jobless aid that had been extended under the measure, Washington State Governor Jay Inslee said, even as he and other governors in both parties welcomed the bill's signing.

"It is good news that the president has signed the relief bill. But his delayed action cost  Washingtonians a week of PUA (Pandemic Unemployment Assistance) benefits," Inslee, a Democrat, tweeted.

Pandemic Unemployment Assistance

Under the new $900 billion relief bill, PUA is extended for new applicants until 14 March, 2021. People in the program who haven’t exhausted their total 50 weeks of PUA by then can continue to draw benefits throughout the week of 5 April, 2021.

The new bill also extends Pandemic Emergency Unemployment compensation for people experiencing long-term joblessness for a total of 24 weeks as well as providing an extra $300 per week for all benefits recipients.

New criteria 

Employ America advisor Elizabeth Pancotti states that people currently receiving PUA into 2021 should continue to certify and collect their benefits as normal, but recommends they send in their verification documents as soon as possible after the new requirements are determined by their state agency.

The new verification requirement is not retroactive, so if you self-qualified for PUA in 2020 but do not submit required documents for continued benefits in 2021, you will not be expected to return any PUA funds you received this year. It only applies for new funds requested going forward.

People who apply to PUA for the first time starting January 31, 2021, will have 21 days to submit their verification documents, say CNBC.

Relief bill and second stimulus check: live updates

You can get the latest updates and information on the coronavirus relief bill and second stimulus check by following our dedicated rolling news feed.