American Rescue Plan Act of 2021

$400 unemployment benefits: how long has the House extended them?

The House approved a bill that will extend and increase federal pandemic unemployment benefits set to expire 14 March until at least the end of August.

$400 unemployment benefits: how long has the House extended them?
NICK OXFORD REUTERS

In the early hours of Saturday, the House passed a $1.9 trillion covid-19 relief bill called the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021. The sweeping package will see struggling American families get a boost to their incomes through a third round of stimulus checks, enhanced tax provisions and extending federal pandemic unemployment benefits.

The bill extends pandemic unemployment programs for up to five months to 29 August, originally Biden had pushed for an extension through September. Additionally, out of work Americans will also receive $400 per week on top of state unemployment insurance, up from the $300 per week. Without further action the current programs would expire 14 March. The legislation passed in the House now heads to the Senate for consideration, with debate expected to begin on Wednesday.

Democrats are using budget reconciliation to pass the legislation with a simple majority in the upper chamber. A final vote on the bill could come as soon as early Friday morning. Changes are expected to be made to the House version, specifically the removal of the $15 per hour minimum wage hike. A revised version when passed in the Senate would have to return to the House for final approval before President Biden can sign the bill into law.

What unemployment benefits will be extended?

Under the CARES Act temporary pandemic relief programs were created to extend state unemployment benefits, Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC), and provide jobless financial assistance to workers not normally covered by state unemployment insurance, Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA).

Aid through these programs is set to run out on 14 March, although some recipients could receive payments until 5 April who haven’t received any payments from their states' unemployment offices yet. The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 would extend these programs through to 29 August, 2021.

The self-employed, gig and other workers who don’t qualify for state-level assistance could claim a maximum 74 weeks of benefits, up from 50 through PUA. While PEUC recipients would qualify for up to 48 weeks instead of 24 once they have exhausted their state’s regular unemployment insurance and extended benefits.

Additional $400 per week in benefits

The bill that passed the House would also top up the benefits that recipients receive with an extra $400. This additional payment would increase from the $300 approved in the December covid-19 relief bill. This provision would also continue through to 29 August. In addition, self-employed workers that make at least $5,000 in net self-employment income and aren’t receiving PUA would get an extra $100 per week.

According to the Labor Department more than 19 million Americans are collecting some form of jobless aid at the beginning of February. Of those over 4 million have been unemployed for more than six months.