When will the $300 unemployment benefit start? Officials don’t know

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Key Points
  • A $900 billion Covid relief bill offers workers an extra $300 in weekly unemployment benefits.
  • It would be available to more than 20 million people collecting benefits.
  • State labor officials don’t know when it may arrive. President Donald Trump must first sign the bill into law. He’s threatening not to do so in order to send larger stimulus checks to households.

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More than 20 million Americans are eagerly anticipating a $300 boost to their weekly unemployment benefits.  

The sum would nearly double weekly aid for the average worker and help lift millions out of poverty.

But it’s unclear when exactly that cash will hit workers’ bank accounts.

Labor officials in several states — including California, Michigan, New Mexico, Texas and Utah — say they need input from the U.S. Department of Labor on how to implement and disburse the payments.

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They also need to wait until the federal government issues funds to the states, according to Bill McCamley, cabinet secretary for the New Mexico Department of Workforce Solutions.

“Everyone’s asking for timelines, but we just don’t know right now,” McCamley said. “We need to know exactly what the rules of the game are before we move forward.”

More from Personal Finance:
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Workers may be waiting several weeks. It took a month for all states to begin disbursing a prior $600 weekly enhancement to benefits created by the CARES Act in March. However, that process may offer a template for states to speed up this round of assistance.

Some state labor officials are also warning of a gap in benefits for millions of workers in unemployment programs set to expire this weekend.

Trump adds uncertainty

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Timing of the $300 subsidy also hinges on how soon President Donald Trump signs a Covid relief bill into law. But it’s no longer clear when — or if — Trump will sign the $900 billion measure.

In a Tuesday night tweet, the president called the bill an unsuitable “disgrace” and demanded larger stimulus checks for individuals and families. Congress passed the bill on Monday. If Trump vetoes the bill, Congress could reconvene after Christmas to override it.

Delays not inevitable

Delays aren’t a given in all states. In Arizona, for example, officials expect aid to flow uninterrupted, assuming the Covid relief legislation soon becomes law.

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Arizona officials reviewed the legislation and will work through the holidays to issue the $300 boost and extra weeks of benefits starting the week ended Jan. 2 — the first week allowed for by the relief bill, according to Brett Bezio, a spokesman for the Department of Economic Security.

No timeline

The Labor Department, which oversees unemployment operations for all U.S. states and territories, can only issue official rules to states once Trump signs the bill. The agency may then take several days to provide guidelines, which help states interpret the legislation.

“Currently, we do not have a set timeline, as we are waiting for official guidance from the U.S. Department of Labor,” said Bethany Hyatt, a spokeswoman for the Utah Department of Workforce Services.

We know how desperate people are, we know families are hurting. But if we don’t do this right, it could create more harm than good.
Bill McCamley
cabinet secretary, New Mexico Department of Workforce Solutions

States would also be setting up other unemployment programs at the same time as the $300 subsidy, potentially slowing the process further.

For example, the relief bill offers 11 extra weeks of benefits to self-employed and gig workers and people collecting state unemployment insurance. It adds requirements to combat fraud, such as new documentation procedures for self-employed workers applying for benefits.

This will all occur as states process elevated levels of new and ongoing claims for benefits.

PUA and PEUC delays

Millions of workers receiving Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (for the self-employed) and Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (which pays 13 extra weeks of state benefits) may also see their benefits temporarily stop after this week. More than 14 million Americans are enrolled in these programs.

“There will be a delay in benefits for those currently enrolled in federal PUA and PEUC benefit programs,” said Jason Moon, a spokesman for the Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity.

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The delay will begin on Dec. 26 and its duration is unknown as the state awaits federal Labor Department rules, Moon said. Workers will be made whole once the extensions are implemented, he said.

“People need to be patient with the process,” said McCamley, the New Mexico labor official. “We know how desperate people are, we know families are hurting.

“But if we don’t do this right, it could create more harm than good.”

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