When will $400 weekly federal unemployment benefits get passed? Here’s everything to know
More than 18 million Americans are currently receiving jobless benefits, including $300 weekly enhanced federal unemployment payments.
That could soon get upped to $400 per week.
Last week the House Ways and Means Committee confirmed its portion of the revised fiscal year 2021 budget would include a provision to increase weekly enhanced unemployment payments, which are paid on top of state benefits, from $300 to $400. That’s exactly what President Joe Biden asked his Democratic colleagues to deliver. The bill in Congress would send those $400 weekly payments through Aug. 29.
But they’ll need to act fast: Without an extension, enhanced payments will expire on March 14. Other pandemic unemployment benefits are set to expire that day too, including Pandemic Unemployment Insurance (PUA)—which expands who is eligible for unemployment benefits to include people like business owners, part-timers, and freelancers—and Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation benefits (PEUC)—which grants an extra 24 weeks of jobless benefits to recipients once they exhaust their state benefits. Democratic leadership has stated those benefits will also get extended in its soon-to-be-announced economic aid package.
To help readers understand the $400 jobless benefit, Fortune tackled some of the bigger questions surrounding the benefit.
When is the $400 benefit likely to get passed?
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says her party hopes to pass a massive economic aid bill through the House by the end of February, and get it on Biden’s desk before March 14. That package, as confirmed by the House Ways and Means Committee, will include the $400 weekly federal jobless benefit.
Democratic leaders already initiated the budget reconciliation process, something that is required if Democrats intend to pass the package through the U.S. Senate in the face of united opposition from Senate Republicans.
Will they get it done before pandemic unemployment benefits lapse? Moody’s Analytics chief economist Mark Zandi told Fortune he is confident they’ll get it done.
Who would be eligible for the $400 checks?
The CARES Act, which was passed in March, expanded eligibility for unemployment benefits to include jobless part-timers, self-employed workers, freelancers, and independent contractors. These unemployed Americans covered through Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, along with anyone on traditional state unemployment rolls, will automatically get the new $400 weekly federal benefit. That’s assuming Congress passes the $400 benefit, of course.
Those who qualify would get the additional $400 weekly, regardless of their previous wages. This is on top of their state unemployment insurance benefit. For instance, a worker in New York who gets the maximum state benefit of $504 per week would receive a total of $904 per week.
As proposed, how long would the $400 unemployment benefit last?
For weeks Biden has been pushed for the benefit to run through September. But last week, the House Ways and Means Committee confirmed the Democratic controlled House’s bill would issue $400 weekly payments through Aug. 29.
Already, Sen. Ron Wyden has raised issues with the benefit going only through August. Like Biden, he wants it to run through September. It’s unclear if Democratic leaders are open to debating the payment period. After all, extending the payment date would only add to the overall cost and thus make it harder to pass the package through reconciliation.
Once passed, how long would it take for $400 unemployment checks to start going out?
The $2.2 trillion CARES Act passed in March 2020 paid $600 weekly enhanced benefits through late July 2020. Enhanced benefits were revived—although at a decreased $300 weekly sum—when the $900 billion aid package passed in December 2020.
Both times the implementation of the enhanced benefits varied drastically at the state level. Like the past rounds, the timetable for when the $400 payment would start paying out is likely to vary by state system.
The good news? If states delay in sending out the $400 unemployment payments, the benefit would be back paid for any missed weeks. If Congress passes it, Americans who are eligible for the $400 enhanced unemployment benefits will eventually get their money.