UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFITS

New unemployment benefits: how to check if they are missing

President Biden's American Rescue Plan would provide $400 per week of additional federal unemployment benefits, but it may take some time to arrive.

New unemployment benefits: how to check if they are missing
SPENCER PLATT AFP

Throughout the election campaign President Joe Biden promised to focus his early days in office on tackling the coronavirus pandemic As such securing financial support for those affected will be a crucial part of his administration’s response and he has wasted no time. Last week he announced his proposal for the American Rescue Plan, a $1.9 trillion package aimed at helping those most vulnerable.

During December the United States’ job market lost another 140,000 jobs, signifying that the economic crisis is likely to worsen over the winter months. At the start of the New Year the national unemployment rate was 6.7% and further financial relief was clearly needed.

Biden proposes $400 additional federal unemployment benefits

The stimulus checks were the most talked about element of the financial package but for millions of Americans it is the unemployment benefits included that will be most invaluable. The CARES Act, signed into law last March, initially provided a $600 weekly enhancement for those out of work during the pandemic.

However after this promising start Congress struggled to find agreement on a new deal and it took the emergency $900 billion relief bill signed in December to prevent recipients losing all support. To avoid a similar situation happening again, Biden’s proposal would see the amount offered gradually decreasing over time to remove the danger of a ‘cliff-edge’ for funding.

The new package will supply the $400 additional weekly unemployment benefits through September 2021, a deal which would provide a safety net for millions. Upon announcing the plan, Biden said: “This gets money quickly into the pockets of millions of Americans who will spend it immediately on food, rent and other basic needs.”

How to check on the status of your unemployment benefits

Unemployment benefits, even the federally funded additional benefits, will be administered by state authorities so they will have the best up-to-date information on how things are progressing. Typically the information will be available on the state’s Department of Labor website, or equivalent.

As it stands Biden’s $400 unemployment benefits is still just a proposal, but with unified power in Congress it is likely that the bill will pass fairly unscathed. However while there will be little opposition in the Capitol, getting the money out as quickly as possible will be a considerable challenge.

John Pallasch, assistant Secretary of Labor for Employment and Training, believes that it will take time for recipients to begin seeing the new unemployment benefits in their bank accounts.

“Although Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation and Mixed Earner Unemployment Compensation will both help alleviate the burden many unemployed workers continue to face, we need to be clear it is unlikely that eligible claimants will immediately begin seeing these benefits,” he said.

Pallasch continues: “Any time Congress creates a new program such as MEUC, the states must work with the Department to ensure they are standing up and operating the new program with integrity. To this end, the Department stands ready to help states implement them in a rapid manner to ensure the timely payment of benefits.”