UNEMPLOYMENT LEGISLATION PENDING
As the coronavirus emergency pushes the unemployment rate to historic heights, Congress is rushing to give the jobless an unprecedented amount of money to help them cope. Nationally, unemployment claims for last week shot up to a record 3.3 million, nearly five times the historic weekly high 661,000 set at the height of the Great Recession.
The massive stimulus bill approved by the Senate and now before the U.S. House would give unemployed workers an additional $600 a week in benefits, above what they are eligible to receive from their state. Those increased benefits would continue for the next four months. Unemployed workers will now have an additional 13 weeks of benefits, for a total of 39 weeks.
The bill would give federal benefits to workers who have never before been eligible for help. It would create a new program called Pandemic Unemployment Assistance for self-employed, part-time and contract workers who are typically ineligible for benefits. Neither would it require beneficiaries to be actively looking for work.
Furloughed workers, those in quarantine because they have COVID-19 or fear they have the virus, are also eligible. So are workers who have had to leave their job because they are taking care of someone who is sick or tend to children who are no longer in school or daycare because of closings. A worker needn’t have been employed for a certain number of weeks to receive benefits, and new hires are eligible, as are those who have already exhausted their state unemployment benefits.
However, workers who are able to work from home, and those receiving paid sick leave or paid family leave, would not be covered. The expansion of unemployment insurance is designed to put money quickly and directly into laid-off people’s pockets in the hopes that they will be able to keep paying their bills and feeding their families and won’t be ruined financially by the pandemic.
Many states have a one-week “waiting period,” meaning that the first week a person is unemployed, they get no benefits. The stimulus package pushes states to waive that period by paying the full cost of that week of benefits. Stay tuned and we will let you know when it passes.