Dec. 26 will mark the final federal unemployment check for millions of Americans unless President Donald Trump signs a $2.3 trillion omnibus spending bill that includes $900 billion for COVID-19 relief. The stimulus package passed both chambers of Congress Dec. 21, but the president criticized the bill the next day for having a second stimulus check for only $600. He says he wants to see the bill amended to include a $2,000 payment. Earlier in the month, the White House offered a $600 stimulus check as part of a different stimulus plan. (Calculate your potential second stimulus check total here.)
“This abdication of responsibility has devastating consequences. Today, about 10 million Americans will lose unemployment insurance benefits,” President-elect Joe Biden said in a statement Saturday. “It is the day after Christmas, and millions of families don’t know if they’ll be able to make ends meet because of President Donald Trump’s refusal to sign an economic relief bill approved by Congress with an overwhelming and bipartisan majority.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will bring the House of Representatives to a vote Monday, December 27, 2020, on a bill that would approve a $2,000 per person second stimulus check, but it isn’t expected to pass the Senate.
The $2.3 trillion omnibus spending bill (PDF) the president took issue with includes provisions to boost unemployment benefits, a one-month eviction moratorium extension, and money to help keep employees paid. According to the bill’s language, enhanced unemployment benefits would extend to 11 more weeks from Dec. 26 to March 14, 2021. However, the number of covered weeks would shrink if the passage of the bill is delayed. Without a new bill, there will be no more checks.
Benefits would include the $300 weekly bonus payment, the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program for gig workers, and the benefits provided by the states. However, that start date is now unlikely as the president has yet to sign the bill.
One new relief included in the bill is the Mixed Earner Unemployment Compensation, which provides an additional $100 a week for those unemployed workers who earned money from a standard job and from self-employment, although states will individually determine if they will receive that amount.
We’re here to answer as many questions as we can, given the current information available, including if the weekly unemployment bonus would include retroactive payments and who would meet the eligibility requirements. We recently updated this story with new details.
If Trump vetoes the bill, what happens next?
If the president vetoes the bill, Congress could potentially override his veto, assuming they had enough time to do so before the new Congress is sworn on Jan. 3. A veto override takes a two-thirds majority vote in both the House and Senate, which can happen considering both chambers gave the overwhelming majority to the bill.
Another veto option for the president is a pocket veto. Usually, if he doesn’t sign or veto legislation within 10 days, it becomes law. But, again, timing is very important here. The last day Congress is in session is Jan. 3 so if the 10 days go past that time, the bill is dead, and the country will have to wait until the new Congress starts to redo the whole process again. If this scenario occurs, the federal government could also shut down, as the bill contains funding to keep government offices open.
When would the $300 bonus weekly unemployment checks start up again?
The first date for the bill to go into effect, Dec. 26, is no longer a possibility. The checks would last until March 14, 2021, if Trump signs the bill, which is now in question considering the complaints he’s made. This extension also has an overflow period that lasts until April 5, 2021. This means a person who finds themselves unemployed in early 2021 would receive an additional three weeks of aid.
The spending bill also includes a second stimulus check and funding for a variety of programs. There could be another, larger stimulus package in early 2021 when President-elect Joe Biden takes office. Here’s how changes to Congress could play a role.
Are the $300 weekly unemployment bonus checks retroactive?
While the language of the bill does not specify if the unemployment bonus is retroactive or not, that does not appear to be the case, The Washington Post reported. This means they’re likely won’t be a federally instituted lump sum payment to make up for previous weeks of not receiving a $300 check.
New: Mixed Earner Unemployment Compensation
In the original CARES Act, the bill had unemployed workers either get their benefits from the state through unemployment insurance or through a federal program called Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA). Someone who worked as a gig worker, self-employed, freelancer or contractor who doesn’t typically receive unemployment benefits if they’re laid off could receive PUA instead.
In the language of the bill, however, someone who earned a combination of income from a traditional job and a contractor job would either receive the unemployment insurance payment or the PUA, and not a combination of both.
With Mixed Earner Unemployment Compensation, a person who made more money from their self-employment or contracting job — that requires a 1099 form — could receive an extra $100 a week. For example, let’s say you made $50,000 in 2019, which was split with $30,000 coming from a contractor job and $20,000 from a part-time job at a company. If you were laid off, the state unemployment office would calculate whether you would receive benefits for the $30,000 via PUA or $20,000 via unemployment insurance but not a combination of the two.
While someone who worked a traditional job and makes $50,000 a year in New York would receive $480 a week from unemployment insurance, by having a mix of the two, you would get the greater of the two different amounts which would be the PUA of $288 a week rather than the $280 from unemployment.
Mixed Earner Unemployment Compensation will now give that person an extra $100, but only if the state participates. It may be some time before states will determine whether they will or not after the bill gets passed.
Who’s eligible for the bonus $300 unemployment check?
If you’ve been laid off or furloughed, you’re eligible to apply for unemployment benefits from the state where you live. Once the state approves your claim, you can apply to receive whatever state benefits you’re entitled to. Because states cover 30% to 50% of a person’s wages, there’s no one lump sum you could get nationally.
When the CARES Act passed in March, it provided unemployed workers with a weekly bonus check of $600 on top of the amount the state was offering, but those payments ended in July. Trump’s executive memo signed on Aug. 8 reinstated a bonus weekly check for a reduced $300 funded by the federal government through FEMA. These were only offered for six weeks to those states who applied, which were all of them except for South Dakota.
Those receiving PUA would also receive the $300 bonus. Under the CARES Act, PUA funding will be available until Dec. 31 but for many, their last payment will be on Dec. 26.
Would I qualify for federal unemployment insurance?
Eligibility criteria vary from state to state, but the general rule is that you should apply if you’ve lost your job or been furloughed through no fault of your own. This would include a job lost directly or indirectly because of the pandemic.
How is unemployment insurance calculated?
The state determines how much each applicant receives, usually based on an individual’s gross income. It varies from state to state but is typically between $300 and $600.
How are the states handling unemployment benefits?
Most states provide up to 26 weeks of funding, though others, such as Georgia, limited benefits to 12 weeks. On the other hand, Delaware extended benefits for up to 30 weeks.
The weekly benefit amount depends on an applicant’s gross income when they were employed and ranges between $300 and $600, with some exceptions. Mississippi had paid up to $235, while Massachusetts’ maximum has been $1,220. Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) from the CARES Act added an additional 13 weeks funded by the federal government, but another stimulus bill with unemployment insurance would need to pass in order to extend it further. The latest COVID-19 relief package would add another 11 weeks of PEUC.
Where can I get more details about my state’s unemployment policy?
Each state’s labor office provides information about its particular unemployment benefits.