As the government forces all non-essential employees to go home, relying on unemployment benefits becomes a central tool to reduce the economic pain of the coronavirus. The challenge is that traditionally, unemployment insurance replaces less than half of an employee’s pay, and many workers such as restaurant servers and the self-employed do not qualify for benefits. Relief cannot come soon enough for the nearly 40 million Americans expected to face unemployment in the next 30 days.
The CARES Act, signed into law on Friday, March 27, 2020, provides needed support and expanded benefits over an extended period to jobless workers. Help now includes many who had not previously qualified for payments.
Eligibility began on January 27, 2020, and will end on December 31, 2020.
Each state has different guidelines regarding how long it pays unemployment benefits. The CARES Act offers benefits for an additional 13 weeks beyond the state limits. States typically pay unemployment benefits for up to 26 weeks, which means new unemployment claims can last up to 39 weeks or nearly ten months.
Anyone exhausting current unemployment benefits may qualify for an additional 13 weeks under the new plan.
Traditionally unemployment insurance covers half, or less of average wages received over the last year or 18 months. Each state uses a different formula along with the established minimum and maximum payments, limiting payouts.
Under the new law, qualified recipients will receive an additional $600 per week for 13 weeks.
The CARES Act also gives businesses incentives to keep workers on the payroll, which could mean workers will again receive paychecks, avoiding the need to use unemployment.
The CARES Act offers millions of Americans financial relief during a time of growing unemployment. It does not reach everyone experiencing a job loss, but it will help most workers losing employment due to mandatory shutdowns, quarantines, and other efforts to limit movement during this unprecedented time.
PLEASE NOTE: It is important to note that every state has its own unemployment insurance laws. The new federal CARES Act allows each state to amend its laws to provide additional unemployment benefits related to COVID-19. As such expanded payment periods and expanded worker qualifications may not be immediately available in all states.
Find more information about the specific unemployment laws in each state here.
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