CORONAVIRUS STIMULUS CHECKS

Can I get stimulus money if I also receive unemployment benefits?

President Biden's American Rescue Plan includes a new federal unemployment insurance programme and a third round of stimulus checks. As unemployment requests continue to rise, can you receive both?

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Can I get stimulus money if I also receive unemployment benefits?
BRIDGET BENNETT AFP

Democrat Senator Bernie Sanders has confirmed that the American Rescue Plan, President Joe Biden’s flagship covid-19 relief bill, will be introduced in Congress early next week. The $1.9 trillion package marks Biden’s commitment to providing economic support to those suffering financially during the pandemic.

Amongst the various programmes and initiative involved in the bill are an extension to the additional federal unemployment benefits agreed last year, and a third round of stimulus checks worth $1,400 per person.

Unemployed Americans are eligible for both forms of support

The coronavirus pandemic and subsequent restrictions have wreaked havoc with the American economy and left millions out of work, or struggling to get by with reduced household income.

Nationally more than 10 million are currently unemployed, while 29 million adults and at least 8 million children are facing food insecurity. Those classified as low-income are often the ones most vulnerable to economic downturns and Biden’s bill aims to offer support to these marginalised groups.

For that reason both the stimulus check payments and unemployment benefits will be available to anyone who qualifies for their respective eligibility requirements. Therefor most people currently out of work will be able to receive both.

Stimulus checks and unemployment benefits address different issues

Although they have both become a regular feature of coronavirus relief bills the two forms of direct support actually tackle separate problems.

The stimulus checks are distributed far more widely with over 160 million people believed to have received payments in each of the previous two rounds. The checks are intended to provide a short-term boost for individuals while also stimulating the economy by encouraging spending.

Unemployment benefits on the other hand are far more targeted, aimed at providing direct assistance to those who have lost their livelihoods due to the pandemic. It is also intended to prevent people feeling forced to enter an unsafe workspace because they have to put food on the table

In a White House briefing fact sheet, Biden’s team pledged to “help ensure that unemployed Americans no longer have to choose between paying their bills and keeping themselves and their families safe from COVID-19”

In some cases workers whose jobs have been disrupted are not eligible for regular state benefits, like workers in the gig economy. These people are able to access benefits through the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance programme, which supported 426,856 people in Biden’s first week in office.

Unemployment benefits to be extended again

One of the most vital pieces of financial support offered by the federal government over the last nine months has been the additional unemployment benefits, which boost the state-defined unemployment insurance which can vary wildly.

The CARES Act, signed into law last March, provided an additional $600-per-week for those who had lost their jobs during the pandemic. However that support expired at the end of 2020 and President Trump signed an emergency relief bill ensuring an additional 11 weekly payments of $300.

The package proposed by Biden would see those out of work given $400-per-week through September 2021, by which time it is hoped that economic conditions will have improved. There are also “automatic stabilisers” which prevent a benefits cliff when that funding runs out. Rather than simply expiring on a given date, this batch of unemployment benefits will gradually decrease in value until they are fully phased out.