The U.S. economy has absorbed significant damage from the COVID-19 outbreak, and its impact will be felt for months or years to come. Terminations and layoffs have soared rapidly, forcing many Americans to pursue unemployment benefits. These weekly benefits are generally available to employees who were not at fault for losing their jobs. Thus, virtually anyone who is terminated or laid off due to the economic impact of the COVID-19 outbreak would qualify for unemployment benefits. They are calculated as a percentage of the recipient’s former wages. Unemployment benefits are temporary and typically last for no more than six months. Each state manages its own system of benefits.
Expansion of Unemployment Benefits During the COVID-19 Outbreak
Through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, the federal government provided a stimulus package for small businesses and their employees. As part of this package, the federal government supplemented state unemployment benefits through July 2020 with additional payments of $600 per week. The Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021 extended additional unemployment benefits through March 14, 2021, although the new additional payments were $300 per week. The $300 per week additional compensation was again extended by the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARPA) until September 6, 2021. The federal government also provides unemployment benefits for 24 weeks beyond the termination of state unemployment benefits, up to a maximum length of 79 weeks. If a state imposes a one-week waiting period before unemployment benefits start, the federal government will provide benefits during that time.
Other provisions of the CARES Act (and its 2021 extensions) extend unemployment benefits to people who do not typically fall within their scope, but who lost their jobs for certain reasons related to the COVID-19 outbreak. These groups include self-employed people and workers who have not accumulated enough work history to qualify for unemployment benefits in their state.
Under the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021, each qualifying adult will receive another cash payment from the federal government of up to $600, which will be increased by $600 for each child of that adult who is 16 or younger. Under the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, a third cash payment will be made to qualifying individuals of up to $1,400. (This last benefit applies regardless of employment status.)
Partial Unemployment Benefits
During the COVID-19 outbreak, partial unemployment benefits may become more widespread. These benefits are available to people who are forced to work fewer hours or who have transitioned to a part-time job due to their inability to find full-time employment. To be eligible for benefits, you must be able to work at a full-time job, and you must not have chosen voluntarily to work at a part-time job. You also must have transitioned from full-time to part-time work through no fault of your own, and you may need to meet certain minimum earning or work requirements in your state.
Partial unemployment benefits are calculated based on the full unemployment benefits that a worker would have received, based on their previous full-time job. These benefits usually amount to between half and two-thirds of a worker’s average weekly wage. Once the full unemployment benefits amount is calculated, the state will subtract a certain percentage of this amount from the claimant’s weekly wage at the part-time job. Finally, it will subtract the result from the benefits that the claimant would receive if they were fully unemployed.