The $600 federal unemployment benefit for those who lost work as a result of the coronavirus pandemic is set to expire at the end of this month. And despite a wave of businesses closing again amid a resurgence of coronavirus cases across the country, and more than 30 million unemployed Americans now collecting benefits, it seems unlikely that benefit will be extended.
The Democratic-led House passed legislation allocating funding to extend the $600-per-week unemployment benefit through January 2021. But many Senate Republicans (who hold the majority) are vowing not to extend the provision.
In a news conference Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said the HEROES Act—which passed in May and would provide an extension of supplemental unemployment benefits as well as another round of stimulus checks for Americans—is “never going to pass the Senate.” He added that he did not support an extension of the $600 unemployment benefits.
Sen. McConnell did say that the Senate plans to come up with another stimulus package with a focus on “kids, jobs and healthcare,” and should be in the final stages of putting that bill together by the end of July.
But the Senate leader said the supplemental federal unemployment benefit that was passed in March under the CARES Act won’t be included in the next phase of coronavirus relief. That additional $600 in federal unemployment compensation benefits is currently available to anyone getting state unemployment benefits through the week ending July 31.
“We need to make sure that [for] those that are not able to recover their jobs, that unemployment is adequate,” Sen. McConnell told reporters. But he characterized the additional $600 benefit as “paying people a bonus not to go back to work.”
“I think that was a mistake,” he said, adding that the “basic protections of unemployment insurance are extremely important and should be continued.”
Eligible for unemployment benefits? Here’s what to expect
The $600 supplemental federal benefit will expire at the end of the month. Then unemployment benefits will return to pre-pandemic levels, which vary according to state. Here’s what to know if you’re getting benefits.
You may be able to extend regular unemployment benefits
Under the federal Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation program, those who are unemployed as a result of the coronavirus pandemic could be eligible for extended benefits through December 31.
Approval for extended unemployment benefits is based on your state unemployment claim. If you were eligible for benefits from your state, you should also be eligible for this extension under the CARES Act. But you do need to apply for them.
States may be able to provide an additional 13 or 20 weeks of extended benefits, based on the unemployment rate in that state and other factors, according to the Labor Department.
As of early June, the agency said extended benefits were available in Washington D.C. and Puerto Rico, as well as 42 states: Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.
Some states will end the $600 unemployment benefit early
Under the CARES act, the additional federal unemployment compensation is not payable past July 31, 2020. That means that in states that pay unemployment benefits for weeks ending on Friday, the last check will go out the week of July 26.
But as the Labor Department has noted, some states pay out their unemployment benefits on weeks that end on Saturdays or Sundays. If you live in one of those states, the last week of your $600 unemployment benefit will be the week that ends Saturday, July 25, or Sunday, July 26. (Essentially ending the federal benefit about a week earlier than in other states, as USA Today reported.)
Among the states ending the benefit early are California and New York, where the weekly payment cycle ends on July 25 and July 26 respectively. Those two states also have the most residents receiving unemployment benefits in the country. New York had more than 1.3 million unemployed as of May, and California had more than 3 million unemployed.
Overall, unemployment claims have been declining in recent weeks. In the week ending June 20, initial jobless claims nationwide totaled 1,480,000, a decrease of 60,000 from the previous week’s revised level. (Another 728,120 U.S. workers filed claims for benefits under the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program.) Still, the number of Americans claiming unemployment benefits remains significantly higher than pre-pandemic levels.
A total of 19.5 million people nationwide collected state unemployment insurance for the week ending June 13. That doesn’t include an estimated 11 million Americans receiving federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, the federally funded program aimed at covering the self-employed, contractors and other workers who don’t typically qualify for unemployment insurance.
In May, the nation’s unemployment rate declined to 13.3 percent, from 14.7 percent in April. Still, that rate remains sharply higher than it was before the coronavirus spread across the country. In February the unemployment rate was just 3.5 percent.