When Congress left Washington in early August, they had yet to agree on the specifics of a second stimulus package. They reconvene Sept. 8, and if a deal is reached in the first days or week after returning, you could receive a second stimulus check by early October.
That’s if the new coronavirus relief bill follows the same timeline, from signature to implementation, as the original CARES act, which took about three weeks to reach people’s accounts after it was signed.
President Trump, aiming to fill the gap left by Congress, signed a memorandum that gives Americans an extra $300 in federal aid atop whatever state unemployment benefits they’re receiving.
The president is drawing on aid money through the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) Stafford Act, which will allocate $44 billion in federal funding. However, depending on how many states sign up for the unemployment supplement, the money may not make it past mid-September.
Read on to see if your state has opted in for federal unemployment benefits, how long they may last, and to learn if you qualify.
Eligibility: Who Qualifies for the Extra $300 Unemployment Benefit?
To be eligible for the $300 a week benefit, you need to be receiving at least $100 a week in unemployment benefits from any of these programs:
- Unemployment compensation, including regular State Unemployment Compensation, Unemployment Compensation for Federal Employees (UCFE) and Unemployment Compensation for Ex-Service members (UCX)
- Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC)
- Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA)
- Extended Benefits (EB)
- Short-Time Compensation (STC)
- Trade Readjustment Allowance (TRA)
- Payments under the Self-Employment Assistance (SEA) program
The $100 threshold means low-wage, part-time or seasonal workers may fail to qualify for the extra $300. The Trump administration claims this is to combat fraud. The decision to exclude low-income earners from the $300 benefit could affect up to one million Americans, according to CNBC.
As with the previous benefits, you must be unemployed because of COVID-19 and, depending on where you live, you may need to complete regular work search requirements to remain eligible.
If you were unemployed in August but have since found a job you can still get the $300 benefit in back pay. Payments will be made retroactively to Aug. 1.
So, if you got a job on Aug. 8, but had been unemployed due to COVID between Aug. 1-7, you can still get one week’s worth ($300) of benefits.
The memorandum calls for states to contact all eligible recipients, so you shouldn’t have to do anything special to remind them that you’re also eligible. However, given how chaotic things have been the last few months it’d be wise to head to your state’s unemployment website and self-certify your eligibility.
If you found a job before Aug. 1, you will not be eligible for the $300 benefit.
States Approved for the $300 Unemployment Benefits
As of Aug. 29th, 2020, these are the states that have been approved by FEMA to receive additional unemployment benefits:
- New Hampshire
- New Mexico
- New York
- North Carolina
- Rhode Island
- West Virginia
South Dakota will refuse the aid altogether. Delaware, Illinois, Kansas, Nevada, New Jersey, South Carolina and Wisconsin are still in the application process. The deadline for states to apply for funding is Sept. 10, 2020.
Kentucky, Montana, West Virginia and Kansas will dish out an extra $100 to residents. Under the initial memorandum, states were required to add $100 to the benefits, making for a total of $400 a week.
How to Apply for the $300 Unemployment Benefits
If you’re already on unemployment, you won’t have to apply for the $300 benefit, you’ll get it automatically.
However, you may need to self-certify that you are still unemployed due to COVID-19 to opt-in for payments. Depending on your state, you may have to complete a weekly self-certification.
If you’re unemployed due to COVID-19 and haven’t yet applied for unemployment insurance, head to your state government’s website and apply as soon as possible as FEMA’s benefits are limited.
When Will the $300 Unemployment Benefits Start?
It will take around three weeks after your state’s application for funding is approved for you to start receiving the $300 benefit. States have to apply and then be approved before FEMA can send out funding. The first grants went out on Aug. 14, 2020, six days after the president signed the memorandum.
How long your state takes to receive its funds will depend on when it sends in the application and whether or not it’s been completed properly. Incomplete applications will delay the funding process.
How long the funds take to hit your actual account depends on how quickly your state can get its unemployment insurance website up to date with FEMA’s eligibility requirements. The Department of Labor estimates this could take states around three weeks.
How Long Will the $300 Unemployment Benefits Last?
The $300 unemployment benefits will end if or when:
- The $44 billion fund has been depleted.
- The total unobligated balance of the Disaster Relief Fund reaches $25 billion.
- Congress passes a COVID-19 relief bill
- Dec. 27, 2020, marks the end of assistance from the Disaster Relief Fund. Even if there were money left over, benefits would cease after this date without an extension from the president or Congress.
States that apply for the grant will get three weeks of guaranteed funding, but after that FEMA will assess Department of Labor statistics to determine what states will get a fourth or fifth week of funding. This is to make sure as many states as possible will have DRF access.
The government knows funds won’t last long. The memorandum will give some Americans much needed relief, but many are already thinking about how they’ll manage into the fall and winter months.
Fortunately, both Republicans and Democrats are in favor of extending some form of federal unemployment benefits, possibly into the new year. Congress gets back to work on Sept. 8, the day after Labor Day. The country will be holding its breath to see if either side will give in to the demands of the other and end this costly deadlock.
Will Federal Unemployment Benefits be Back Paid?
Federal unemployment benefits will be retroactive to Aug. 1. This means you’ll still get paid the extra $300 benefit for being unemployed the first few weeks of August. This all, however, depends on if your state decides to accept the federal grant.
According to the Labor Department, it will cost the government about $8.3 billion a week to distribute the $300 benefit to eligible Americans. This means the $44 billion fund will last less than six weeks. By the second week of September, many people may once again be left without consistent or substantial income.
What Happens When the FEMA Funding for Unemployment Benefits Runs Out?
When the FEMA unemployment funding runs out, the extra benefits will stop. This means no more $300 from the federal government. You will have to rely on your state’s benefits until Congress can pass a new relief bill or the president signs another executive order.
If you’re one of the millions of Americans dreading an impending eviction crisis, head to Nlihc.org for a list of state and local and rental assistance programs.
If you’re in need of immediate food aid, call the USDA National Hunger Hotline at 1-866-348-6479 or 1-877-842-6273.