[US] States Begin To Implement $600 Unemployment Benefit

16 APR 2020
States across America are beginning to implement the historic enhancement of unemployment benefits that Congress included in its $2.2 trillion coronavirus relief package. And some out of work citizens, living in states who have been faster on the uptake, are already seeing healthier unemployment cheques, CNN reports.

The relief package includes a $600 a week increase for up to four months, on top of state benefits. Early beneficiaries include unemployed people in New York - which has emerged as the epicentre of the US outbreak - but workers in most states who have been laid off will get the full amount due eventually and it will be paid retroactively, to as far back March 29 in some cases. (Link via original reporting)

States were unable to act until the federal Department of Labor issued guidance on the extra funds, which the federal government will fully cover. That guidance was released last weekend, a week after the bill’s signing.

But many states have yet to establish a timetable for implementing the new pandemic unemployment assistance program, which provides cover for those who lost their jobs or had to stop working because of the coronavirus. It will require a more extensive change to their applications and systems.

The pandemic program extends jobless benefits to cover independent contractors, the self-employed and gig economy workers, people who in many states would typically fail to qualify. Those states are now hastily working out exactly who does qualify and the relevant documentation workers will need. (Link via original reporting)

Out of work New Yorkers already in receipt of an unemployment cheque could expect to see the additional $600 that week, according to comments from a state Department of Labor spokesperson to CNN last Monday. People filing new claims should begin receiving both their state and enhanced federal payments in the next couple of weeks.

"The federal government says they will reimburse us for it, but people need money now in their pocket," Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo said last Wednesday. "New York will be doing that immediately."

California Governor Gavin Newsom announced the following day that state residents would also begin seeing larger cheques that Sunday.

"Many Californians are feeling the effects of this pandemic, and this added benefit is very important to our workers so they have the needed resources during this difficult time," said Gov. Newsom, pointing out that the previous week the Employment Development Department had processed over 925,000 claims. Representing a 2,418 per cent increase over the same week in 2019.