If you are unemployed and your job prospects are grim, March 11th was probably one of the better days you’ve had during the pandemic.
That was the day federal unemployment benefits were extended until September. Unemployed Americans will continue receiving $300 in federal money in addition to their weekly state unemployment checks.
The extension was part of the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), a $1.9 trillion stimulus relief bill signed by President Joe Biden.
“This historic legislation is about rebuilding the backbone of this country,” Biden said at the signing ceremony. “And giving people in this nation, working people, middle-class folks, the people who built this country, a fighting chance.”
Check Out Our Guide to COVID-19 Relief
How Do the $300 Unemployment Benefits Work?
Anyone getting state unemployment has been getting the federal money since the CARES Act passed in March of 2020. But the federal bonus was $600 in that original COVID-19 relief package.
That expired in July of 2020 and was replaced by a $300-a-week federal bonus. President Donald Trump signed a bill in December that extended that program through March 14, 2021.
ARPA essentially picks up where the last bill left off. 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.
You need to apply for the extra benefits through your state’s website. That has proven a challenge in many states where antiquated computer systems were overwhelmed and started wheezing like a 1988 Chrysler LeBaron with 593,842 miles on the odometer.
Those problems have been mostly resolved, though a little patience might still be called for. New applicants will need to provide income and unemployment records.
ARPA allocated $300 billion for unemployment payments, but the Labor Department warned it might take a few weeks for states to tweak their computer systems to account for the extension.
The period between March 14 and Sept. 6 spans 25 weeks. If the payments were to pick up immediately, that’s $7,500 extra in federal money for individuals. ARPA also increased the maximum period of benefits from 50 weeks to 79 weeks.
If you are on unemployment and are not receiving the extra $300 a week, alert your state unemployment system. You are owed some money!
How Long Will the $300 Unemployment Benefits Last?
The $300 federal benefits will continue through Sept. 6, 2021. Though the way Congress is printing money for COVID-19 relief, another extension is not out of the question.
Ironically, Sept. 6 is Labor Day. Eighteen months after COVID-19 started wreaking havoc on the U.S. labor force, will it be time to get back to work?
Will This Round of Federal Unemployment be Paid Retroactively?
The $300 extension in the ARPA bill is retroactive to the start date of the new program. So, if you missed the federal supplement before March 11th, you cannot get them now.
Eligibility: Who Qualifies for the Extra $300 Unemployment Benefit?
To be eligible for the $300 a week benefit, you need to be receiving 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)
- Mixed Earner Unemployment Compensation (MEUC)
- Payments under the Self-Employment Assistance (SEA) program.
Low-wage, part-time or seasonal workers may fail to qualify for the extra $300.
Can You Apply for Unemployment Again after Benefits Run Out?
The four main unemployment programs are PUA, PEUC, FPUC and MEUC. All are scheduled to expire Sept. 6, 2021. After that, unemployed individuals will receive only state benefits.
How Does the Mixed Earner Unemployment Compensation Work
The mixed earner and unemployment compensation is meant to supplement the incomes of freelancers and gig workers who also happen to rely on traditional W-2 income.
An example of who this applies to would be a freelance photographer who buses tables on the side. Qualified applicants receive an additional $100 along with the standard $300 federal benefit.
Are Unemployment Benefits Taxable?
Yes and no.
Unemployment benefits are generally taxable. Most states do not withhold taxes from unemployment benefits voluntarily, but you can request they withhold taxes.
But under ARPA, $10,200 of unemployment benefits from 2020 will be tax-free for households with a combined income of less than $150,000 (not counting unemployment benefits).
That applies to taxpayers filing joint returns, as head of household, or with single status. But the $10,200 exclusion applies separately to each spouse.
If you filed your income taxes before ARPA passed, the Internal Revenue Service will refund any overpayment you may have made related to unemployment benefits.
The IRS says taxpayers will not have to amend their returns or do anything else in order to get the proper adjustment, but stay on top of that. Any refunds should start appearing in May 2021.
Bents Dulcio writes with a humble, field-level view on personal finance. He learned how to cut financial corners while acquiring a B.S. degree in Political Science at Florida State University. Bents has experience with student loans, affordable housing, budgeting to include an auto loan and other personal finance matters that greet all Millennials when they graduate. He has a prodigious appetite for reading, which he helps feed with writing from Scottish philosopher Adam Smith, the “Father of Capitalism.” Bents writing also has been published by JPMorgan Chase, TheSimpleDollar and Interest.com.
- Wojno, M. (2021, March 13) American Workers Get Enhanced Unemployment Benefits as Biden Signs Stimulus Package. Retrieved from https://www.kiplinger.com/personal-finance/careers/unemployment/602410/american-workers-get-enhanced-unemployment-benefits-as
- Pramuk, J. (2021, March 11) Biden signs $1.9 trillion Covid relief bill, clearing way for stimulus checks, vaccine aid. Retrieved from https://www.cnbc.com/2021/03/11/biden-1point9-trillion-covid-relief-package-thursday-afternoon.html
- Adamczyk, A. (2020, August 12) Trump’s executive order only guarantees $300 per week in enhanced unemployment for some workers. Retrieved from