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Can I get third stimulus check & unemployment benefits at same time?

President Biden's $1.9tn relief bill includes a third round of stimulus checks, and has extended unemployment benefits for out-of-work Americans.

FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Joe Biden speaks in the State Dining Room at the White House in Washington, U.S., March 15, 2021. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque/File Photo

President Joe Biden’s $1.9tn coronavirus relief bill, which was signed into law on 11 March, includes another round of stimulus checks and has doubled down on jobless benefits for Americans, in a bid to minimize economic hardship in the US amid a pandemic that has caused a marked increase in unemployment in the country.

Unemployment in the US still well above pre-pandemic levels

Although joblessness in the US has fallen from an April 2020 high of 14.7% to 6.2% last month, the current unemployment rate remains almost double the pre-pandemic percentage of 3.5%. According to the US Labor Department, another 712,000 initial unemployment-benefits claims were filed in the first week of March - a 42,000 drop on the previous seven-day period, but also well above pre-coronavirus levels.

Can I receive both a stimulus check and unemployment benefits?

Yes, you can. As long as the annual income you’ve declared in your most recent tax return - either 2019 or 2020 - is within the eligibility thresholds for the third stimulus check, you can expect to qualify for a direct payment regardless of whether or not you are receiving unemployment benefits at the same time.

Meanwhile, your stimulus check should have no impact on whether or not you qualify for unemployment benefits, or how much you qualify for. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) says the payment "will not affect your income for purposes of determining eligibility for federal government assistance or benefit programs".

On the Labor Department website you'll find general information on the eligibility rules for unemployment insurance in the US, for example in this fact sheet. We also have the lowdown for workers, such as the self-employed, who don't normally qualify for benefits but do during the pandemic.

Third stimulus check: who's eligible?

As part of the latest round of stimulus checks, the third since the start of the covid-19 pandemic, direct payments of up to $1,400 are being sent out to qualifying Americans, with the IRS confirming on Wednesday that it has distributed around 90 million checks so far. In all, nearly 160 million households across the US are set to get a payment.

The full amount will go to individuals earning up to $75,000 a year and joint filers with a combined annual income under $150,000, while smaller stimulus checks are available to those with yearly earnings below $80,000/$160,000. Americans can also claim a $1,400 additional credit per dependent of any age.

Relief bill extends unemployment benefits, includes weekly boost

Biden’s relief bill has also extended temporary jobless-benefits programs such as the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation scheme, which gives out-of-work Americans a further 13 weeks of benefits beyond the 26 weeks that states typically provide, and the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program, which offers benefits to workers not eligible for regular unemployment insurance.

The legislation also includes a $300 weekly supplement provided to claimants on top of their basic unemployment pay. These schemes are all due to run until 6 September.

Stimulus measures to reduce US poverty by 5%

According to the Urban Institute, a Washington DC-based think tank that conducts research into economic and social policy, stimulus measures such as these, in addition to an expanded child tax credit that allows families to claim up to $3,600 over a 12-month period, will help the US to bring a previously-projected 2021 poverty rate of 13.7% down to 8.7%.

Third stimulus check: live updates

You can get the latest information on the third round of stimulus checks with our dedicated live blog.


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