The US economy is resuming, and millions of unemployed Americans are returning to work.
And yet this positive trajectory cannot last long. Many recently hired Americans could be fired or fired again.
Officials in areas such as New York are discussing new blocking measures as citizens violate social distance rules. Houston may do the same as new daily coronavirus infections grow.
Some companies that support federal payroll may soon run out of funds. Others that have reopened may curtail or prefer to close if consumer activity is weak.
But there is good news for people who are losing their jobs again: they can probably resume their unemployment benefits, essentially starting from where they left off.
However, as is usually the case with unemployment benefits, the rules can be confusing.
“Everything about unemployment insurance is too complicated,” said Michel Evermore, senior political analyst at the National Employment Act.
For example, states set different rules for their unemployment systems. But here is what Americans across the country as a whole can expect.
How much will I get?
Applying for unemployment benefits begins the “year of benefits” for this person. The year you receive the benefit is the 52-week period following the date you filed the application.
For example, someone who applied for unemployment benefits in March 2020 will receive a year of benefits that lasts until March 2021.
Unemployed workers can receive benefits during this period, even through numerous waves of unemployment.
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However, states are limiting the benefits that people can receive — in weekly amounts and total duration — throughout the year. These restrictions often mean that someone will not be able to receive benefits all year long.
Americans can think of unemployment benefits as a bank account, said Chris O’Leary, a senior economist at W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research.
Suppose someone gets about $ 380 a week – middle – in state unemployment benefits. The state, like most others, pays benefits for up to 26 weeks (6 and a half months).
This person will have a “bank account” of $ 9,880.
Now suppose this person received $ 380 a week for a 13-week period from mid-March, when layoffs began. They returned their old work and stopped collecting the unemployed. After some time, they again clouded.
Half of their bank account will remain. In other words, they will be able to resume their previous level of benefits – $ 380 per week – for another 13 weeks.
According to O’Leary, some states allow people to receive benefits longer than the maximum duration (that is, 26 weeks) if they withdraw a smaller part of their “bank account” every week.
This can happen, for example, through work distribution programs that pay proportional unemployment benefits to part-time workers. Let’s say the clock of the same person was halved. Theoretically, they could receive 50% of their benefits (i.e. $ 190 per week) twice as much time (52 weeks).
However, not all states carry out their programs in this way, O’Leary said.
(One important note: CARES, a federal law against coronavirus adopted in March, supplements the states with an additional $ 600 per week. These payments, funded by the federal government and valid until July 31, do not increase their unemployment “bank account”. )
Year of unemployment benefits
CARES law and other rules mean that people can receive benefits for a much longer period of time than usual.
The law provides for an additional 13 weeks of unemployment benefits. This extension, called pandemic emergency compensation, will expire at the end of 2020.
The states also have rules preceding the CARES Act that offer “extended benefits” during periods of high unemployment in their state.
According to Evermore, in most states these additional benefits tend to be about 13 additional weeks. Some states, such as Florida and North Carolina, pay less (about six weeks), while others pay up to 20 weeks.
Unlike the 13 additional weeks offered by the CARES Law, which are not available at the end of the year, the additional weeks offered with the “extended benefits” can go on to the next year if the person remains unemployed.
Thus, our theoretical unemployed worker could receive $ 380 a week throughout the year. (This takes into account the typical 26-week duration of state benefits, the 13-week extension of CARES and the additional 13-week period offered through extended state benefits).
This amount will be available for several periods of unemployment during this period of time.
A person would also receive $ 600 a week until July 31 in the form of federal surcharges.
Workers, as a rule, should not re-apply when switching to new periods of duration, although some conditions may differ in their processes, Evermore said.
Under the CARES Act, some groups, such as self-employed and employees, are provided with unemployment benefits for 39 weeks as part of a pandemic unemployment assistance program. It expires at the end of the year.
These workers are generally not eligible for traditional government benefits.
What happens when the year of benefits ends?
High unemployment may persist next year.
Evermore said this could be problematic for workers who have exhausted or nearly exhausted their benefits.
Although a person can re-apply for unemployment benefits after the end of his current “year of benefits”, say, in March 2021, his assistance can be much less than before. They may also be deemed unsuitable for any benefits.
States typically use the person’s earnings for the previous four quarters to determine their weekly unemployment benefits. But a long period of unemployment is likely to mean that workers will not have enough wages for this period to qualify for benefits. If they are eligible, this may be for a smaller amount.
According to Evermore, during the Great Recession, Congress passed legislation that prevented profits from falling. Lawmakers can do this during this recession, she said.
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