The House passed Democrat’s $1.9 trillion economic aid package over the weekend. Now, it moves onto the Democratic-controlled Senate. Democratic leadership hopes they can get it done and onto President Joe Biden’s desk by March 14—the date when a slew of pandemic unemployment benefits are set to expire.
The bill would not only extend those pandemic unemployment benefits, but also raise weekly federal unemployment payments from $300 to $400. In total, more than 19 million Americans are currently receiving jobless benefits, including the enhanced payments.
The bill now moves to the Senate. The inclusion of a provision to raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour is already ruffling features with some moderate Democrats. Last week the Parliamentarian of the Senate ruled it couldn’t be included in the bill if Democrats were to pass it through the budget reconciliation process. If the Senate doesn’t move the bill because of the $15 minimum wage provision, it would go back to the House.
But even if the current version doesn’t pass in the Senate, onlookers still expect a deal to be reached before March 14—when pandemic unemployments are set to expire.
The unemployment extensions aren’t controversial, so that part of the final bill is likely to be left as currently written.
Just like the $600 and $300 weekly benefits passed in 2020, the implementation of the enhanced benefits will likely vary at the state level.
The good news? If states delay in sending out the $400 unemployment payments, the benefit would be back paid for any missed weeks. If Congress passes it, Americans who are eligible for the $400 enhanced unemployment benefits will eventually get their money.
The passage of the CARES Act in March 2020 expanded eligibility for unemployment benefits. It now include jobless part-timers, self-employed workers, freelancers, and independent contractors. These unemployed Americans covered through Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, along with anyone on traditional state unemployment rolls, will automatically get the new $400 weekly federal benefit.
This is on top of their state unemployment insurance benefit. For instance, a worker in New York who gets the maximum state benefit of $504 per week would receive a total of $904 per week.
On March 14, $300 weekly federal enhanced unemployment benefits will expire if Congress doesn’t act. The plan from House Democrats would raise that amount to $400 per week and extend it through August.
The bill passed in the House would extend Pandemic Unemployment Insurance (PUA) and Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation benefits (PEUC)—which are both set to expire on March 14. PUA expands who is eligible for unemployment benefits to include people like business owners, part-timers, and freelancers. While PEUC grants an extra 24 weeks of jobless benefits to recipients once they exhaust their state benefits.
Both PUA and PUEC would be extended through late August if the bill is ultimately signed into law.