Stimulus Benefits Update: Several States Distributing $300 Payments This Week

Following the passage of the $900 billion relief bill signed at the end of December, Arizona, California, New York, Noth Carolina, and at least eight other states have initiated enhanced unemployment programs this week, which will provide recipients with an extra $300 in federal benefits. Other states will start the process by mid-January.

In an interview with Yahoo Money, National Employment Law Project senior policy analyst Michele Evermore said, “Largely states will be up and running by mid-January. There will probably be a couple outliers that don’t get it up for like three weeks, but I think three weeks is really the outside number.”

Under the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC), jobless Americans will receive the $300 payments in addition to regular state insurance for 11 weeks, or until mid-March. Recipients of Unemployment Insurance (UI) and Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) will also qualify for the supplemental benefits.

According to Yahoo Money, New York has provided the $300 payments to people enrolled in all unemployment programs. In California, on the other hand, only regular UI recipients are receiving extra benefits. 

On December 31, the California Employment Development Department released a statement noting that about 1.3 residents will receive the $300 payments this week, while PEUC and PUA beneficiaries will see the extra benefits “as soon as the revised programming is in place.”

Lawmakers initially debated backdating enhanced payments through winter 2020 but settled on December 27. The new stimulus legislation does not cover the time following the expiration of the $600 offered by the CARES Act or the $300 provided under the Lost Wages Assistance Program (LWA), which President Trump signed into law in early August.

Although several states were quick to send out LWA payments, others such as Nevada, Virginia, and Wisconsin took two months or more to begin the process. Evermore told Yahoo Money that the government should distribute the latest unemployment benefits within three weeks, as it is less complicated than the LWA program.

In addition to the $300 bonus, the $900 stimulus package offers $100 to “mixed-income” workers, or those with W-2 and self-employed income. However, it’s uncertain if states have started issuing these benefits since the program is more complex and calls for even more documentation.

“It’s really unlikely they’re paying the extra $100,” Evermore predicted. “They have to figure out how to get that information from people.”

Qualifying recipients must earn a minimum of $5,000 of eligible self-employment earnings per year, though Evermore notes it’s uncertain how states will verify this. The $100 benefit will also expire mid-March.

The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget stated that $120 billion of the $900 billion price tag is earmarked for unemployment insurance. Besides the extra $300 payments, the new stimulus package also renews the PUA and PEUC programs for another 11 weeks and eliminates several programs’ overpayments.

Because President Trump signed the bill the day after many programs lapsed, PUA and PEUC recipients in several states will experience a gap in state benefits. However, they will still receive the $300 weekly payment from the federal government.

What About A Third Check?

Following the stimulus package passage, President-elect Joe Biden introduced a proposal for further relief after his inauguration. According to CBS News, he referred to the latest bill as a “down payment” and would offer a third round of direct payments. 

“Leaders in both House and Senate, both parties deserve credit for making the hard compromises to get this done. But like all compromises, it’s far from perfect, but it does provide vital relief at a critical moment,” he told lawmakers. 

“However, as I’ve said all along, this bill is just the first step, a down payment, an addressing the crisis, the crises — more than one that we’re in. There’s a lot more work to do. Early next year I’m going to put forward to the Congress my plans for what comes next,” he continued.

While Biden didn’t offer additional details, he pledged to include the following in a future relief bill:

 

  • The third round of stimulus checks (amount undecided)
  • Funding to vaccinate every American 
  • Funding for state and local governments
  • Funding for testing 
  • Federal eviction ban
  • More funds for businesses and personal protective equipment (PPE)

 

So will you receive a third check? And when could it happen? Ultimately, it depends on the outcome of the special elections in Georgia, where incumbent Republicans Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue are vying against Democrats Jon Ossof and Reverend Raphael Warnock in a neck-and-neck race.

 

If Ossof and Warnick win, the Democrats will control the House and the Senate, and a comprehensive stimulus bill will have majority support. If they lose, the likelihood of $2,000 stimulus checks (or further relief) is dim.

 

Sources
  • CBS Detroit. “Stimulus Check Latest: Is A Third Payment In Your Future?” CBS Detroit, CBS Detroit, 4 Jan. 2021, detroit.cbslocal.com/2021/01/04/stimulus-check-latest-third-payment/.
  • Tsekova, Denitsa. “Stimulus: Some U.S. States Begin Paying Extra $300 in Weekly Unemployment Benefits.” Yahoo!, Yahoo!, 4 Jan. 2021, money.yahoo.com/stimulus-states-begin-paying-extra-unemployment-benefits-204819788.html.
  • Watson, Kathryn. “Biden Outlines Plan for New Round of COVID Relief Once in Office.” CBS News, CBS Interactive, 23 Dec. 2020, www.cbsnews.com/news/biden-covid-relief-plan-third-stimulus-check/.

 

Ian Schindler