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CORONAVIRUS STIMULUS CHECK

Third stimulus check: can I apply for the payment if I also receive unemployment benefits?

President Biden's covid-19 relief bill proposal includes $1.9 trillion of federal funding, but is there a limit on the amount of support you can receive?

Third stimulus check: can I apply for the payment if I also receive unemployment benefits?
BRIDGET BENNETT AFP

Despite a White House meeting with Republican Senators at the start of the week, President Joe Biden’s hopes of finding a bipartisan solution to the stimulus bill debate appear to be shrinking. His American Rescue Plan includes a new round of stimulus checks and a considerable extension to unemployment benefits as part of the $1.9 trillion package.

However Republicans appear unwilling to support such a proposal and the Democrats have already began proceedings to pass the new stimulus bill using reconciliation. This means that most, if not all, of Biden’s proposal will likely be passed, but is there a limit on the amount of support that you can receive?

Stimulus checks and unemployment benefits address separate issues

Two of the most vital forms of economic relief included in Biden’s proposal are the direct stimulus payments and the extension to federal unemployment benefits, both of which are designed to assist those struggling due to the pandemic.

Recent projections suggest that the American jobs market is unlikely to reach pre-pandemic levels until the end of the decade, a truly sobering prediction. In the short-term, the White House has revealed that at least 29 million adults and 8 million children are experiencing food insecurity.

With this in mind both the stimulus checks and unemployment benefits will be available to anyone who satisfies their individual eligibility requirements. As part of his covid-19 relief bill, Biden is hoping to expand eligibility for stimulus checks from previous rounds of payment, but that is yet to be confirmed.

Stimulus check thresholds could be altered

The $1.9 trillion package would represent the largest burst of federal funding since the CARES Act was signed last March, nearly a year ago. Included in that are billions for local government, for improved testing procedures and to speed up the vaccine roll-out nationally.

However for many it is the direct financial support that is the most invaluable in the short-term. If the stimulus checks are passed as they appear in Biden’s proposal, payments of up to $1,400 will be sent to every American earning less than $75,000-a-year, or $150,000 for a couple who file jointly.

There have been discussions about lowering the eligibility thresholds, which would prevent some classed as middle-earners from receiving the full amount. However that has been criticised by Briahna Joy Gray, former press secretary for Sen. Bernie Sanders, who believes this reduction would undermine Biden’s covid-19 response.

Gray told The Hill: “The point of these stimulus checks is, yes, to keep people economically afloat while businesses, jobs have been lost, businesses have been shut down because of COVID, but also to incentivize people to stay home so that we can get COVID under control faster and reopen the economy faster.” 

Unemployment benefits to be extended for a second time

The other main source of direct support comes from the additional federal unemployment benefits, which has also been a constant feature of coronavirus economic relief bills. Initially, the CARES Act provided weekly payments of $600-per-person for those who had lost their jobs during the pandemic.

This funding was due to expire in December and former President Trump signed a stop-gap emergency bill to avoid the funding running out entirely. But this bill provided just $300-per-week for 11 weeks and Biden is keen to secure a new extension.

His proposal would see anyone out of work given $400-a-week unemployment benefits through September 2021, by which time he hopes that the economy will be returning to some form of normality. Importantly, his proposal also includes “automatic stabilizers”, which prevent a ‘cliff-edge’ when the federal funding runs out. Instead, Biden’s package would see the amount offered in unemployment benefits gradually phased out.