After several months of job growth, the U.S. lost 140,000 jobs in December, the Labor Department reported Friday. The unemployment rate is 6.7%

By Catey Hill
January 07, 2021
Credit: Getty

If you're without a job, renewed help is here. 

On December 27, President Trump signed a new COVID-19 relief bill into law, which offers relief for the unemployed. Two big things to know: 1) Most people who are eligible for unemployment in their state will soon (if they haven't already) get an additional $300 per week, and 2) you could be eligible for 11 more weeks of unemployment than you were before. 

Who Gets the Extra $300 a Week—and When?

In July 2020, many jobless Americans felt economic strain when they stopped getting the additional $600 a week in unemployment insurance from the federal government. This new bill reinstates that federal enhancement to unemployment, though at a lower rate of $300 per week.  

That means that most of you who are eligible for regular unemployment insurance, as well as those who are eligible for Pandemic Unemployment Insurance (PUA)—a program that helps the self-employed, contractors, gig workers and others who weren't eligible for regular unemployment—can get an extra $300 per week in jobless benefits. This $300 will be added to the unemployment check you already get from your state through March 14. 

A number of states—including New York, California and Texas—have already begun paying the benefits. You can check the status of your state's benefits here. Haven't seen your money yet? Michele Evermore, a senior policy analyst at the National Employment Law Project, says it could take two to three more weeks before you see the payments as states struggle to reprogram their unemployment benefit systems. 

Who Will Get the Extra 11 Weeks of Unemployment? 

Those getting regular unemployment from their state as well as PUA can get an additional 11 weeks of payments if needed. That's good news for those who recently ran out of weeks or will soon face that issue. These extra benefits will go through April 5.

Here's how that often looks, according to The New York Times: "Most states pay benefits for 26 weeks, though some offer less. After that, the CARES Act had extended benefits by 13 weeks. The latest package would tack on 11 more weeks, bringing the total extension to 24 weeks—for anyone receiving either state benefits or pandemic unemployment assistance." 

Note that if you live in a state where there are already extended benefits (you can find a list here)—these benefits provide extra weeks of unemployment for states—you will need to exhaust those benefits before getting the extra weeks of benefits listed above, explains Evermore. 

2 New Things You Should Know

The first is that if you were getting regular unemployment, but you also had some additional income from a 1099 or similar, there's a new program that can help you replace that additional income. It's called the Mixed Earner Unemployment Compensation (MEUC) and people who had at least $5,000 in self-employment income can now receive up to $100 a week in additional unemployment insurance, explains Evermore. 

The second is that there are new documentation requirements for those receiving PUA. Your state may now ask you for pay stubs, 1099s and other documents that it didn't before, notes Evermore. But, she says: "Don't panic because you're not going to get kicked off [PUA] instantly," as that's written into the bill. 

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