Twenty-nine states are now paying out the extra $300 in weekly unemployment benefits under the new relief deal, according to the most recent data, as President-elect Joe Biden looks to extend the program and increase the stimulus check amount once he takes office.
“Next week, states will get something up and running,” Michele Evermore, a senior policy analyst at the National Employment Law Project, told Yahoo Money. “This is stuff that states had been paying before so all they really have to do is turn it back on again.”
Under the $900 billion stimulus deal, jobless Americans get an additional $300 a week in Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) for 11 weeks through March 14. Both workers on Unemployment Insurance (UI) and Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) will get the extra payment added to their core weekly unemployment benefits.
While 29 states are paying the extra benefit to recipients under all programs, California, Indiana, Michigan, and Pennsylvania so far are paying the benefits to those on regular UI and the Extended Benefits (EB) program only. They haven’t yet paid the new benefit to jobless workers who receive PUA and PEUC.
Around 1.3 million Californians got the extra benefit last week, according to a statement from California’s Employment Development Department, while the rest of the benefits will be distributed “as soon as the revised programming is in place.”
The extra $300 payments will not be retroactive to the fall and winter of 2020 — as previously discussed by lawmakers — but rather start from the week of December 27. The weeks after the extra $600 under the CARES Act lapsed in July and the extra $300 under the Lost Wages Assistance (LWA) program expired in September are not covered by the current legislation.
‘We need $2,000 stimulus checks’
While the extra $300 of unemployment benefits will continue to be distributed at least until March 14, Biden would like to extend that timeframe along with other stimulus proposals, including increasing the $600 in direct payments to $2,000.
“$600 is simply not enough when you have to choose between paying rent or putting food on the table,” Biden said in a tweet on Sunday. “We need $2,000 stimulus checks.”
The $2,000 stimulus check proposal was blocked by the Republican-controlled Senate in December, but is now gaining steam after Democrats won both of Georgia’s Senate seats last week, giving them control of the chamber.
If Biden’s proposal passes, eligible Americans could potentially receive an additional $1,400 (as well as an additional $1,400 for each dependent) based on the legislation passed by the House in late December.
“The president doesn't get to tell Congress what to do as we have found over the last few decades,” Mark Harkins, a former congressional staffer and senior fellow at Georgetown’s Government Affairs Institute, told Yahoo Money. “But they can campaign and hope they move the needle.”
Along with stimulus checks and extended unemployment benefits, Biden has mentioned more money allocated for vaccine distribution, schools, and aid to small businesses. Biden said last week he would unveil an entire stimulus package on Thursday — that would include stimulus checks — with the proposal worth “trillions of dollars.”
Lawmakers may try to pass some provisions like the stimulus checks and the extension of the unemployment programs as reconciliation bills, which aren’t subject to filibuster and require only 50 votes to pass. But that may take three to four weeks, according to Harkins.
“That's not a simple process,” he said. “It's much easier to put together legislation that has bipartisan support. That can be done in two days as opposed to multiple weeks.”