The pandemic has led to job losses for many Americans, with 712,000 unemployment filings for the week ending March 6th. If you’re one of those filers, you may receive your payment automatically, but it can still help to know how the process works.
But if you haven’t received your extra unemployment payment yet, it can help to know that it varies by state. Most states have already begun processing unemployment payments, but it still could take some time. If you’re still waiting for your extra unemployment, here’s what you need to know.
Who qualifies for an extra payment?
The first thing you’ll need to determine is whether you even qualify for a payment. You’ll have to currently be unemployed and receiving benefits to get the $300 payment automatically issued. But if you were unemployed between March 29, 2020, to March 13, 2021, and your benefits ran out, you may still qualify for unemployment compensation through the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC).
If you haven’t applied for unemployment already, you’ll need to do so as soon as possible to be eligible for the extra payment. You don’t have to be unemployed due to COVID, but you do have to meet your state’s eligibility criteria for unemployment payments. If you qualify for unemployment in your state, you’ll qualify for any extra payments being issued.
Who will get the payment automatically?
If you’re already receiving unemployment benefits, you’ll receive the extra $300 payments automatically through September 6th. This is an extension of the previous $300 extra weekly payments that were set to expire on March 14th. The payments are retroactive to December 27th, so if yours is running late, you’ll still be paid for what you’re missing now. The maximum PEUC you can receive is now 53 weeks, which is more than double the previous limit of 24 weeks.
But there are some people who won’t get those payments automatically. If your unemployment benefits have run out, you’ll need to apply specifically for the PEUC program. If your benefits are on the verge of ending, you’ll have to wait until your benefits are exhausted to apply for PEUC. Once you’ve applied and been approved, you’ll go through the same weekly filing process you went through when you were on unemployment.
What happens if your unemployment ran out months ago and you were relying on PEUC last year? You’ll have to reapply for the PEUC program.
Unemployment relief for the self-employed
What about the many unemployed Americans who work for themselves? The Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program is designed to issue $300 weekly payments to the many contract workers that are having a tough time finding work. Those include freelancers, part-time workers, gig workers, and other independent contractors who aren’t usually eligible for unemployment.
If you qualify for PUA, you’ll need to apply through your state’s unemployment office. Be prepared to submit documentation verifying that you’re eligible for assistance. To qualify, you need to be able to demonstrate that you are self-employed. This verification could include documents like tax returns, a business license, or client invoices.
Unemployed workers who combine freelance work with a W-2 job could qualify for an additional $100 each week. If you think you meet the qualifications, contact your state unemployment office for instructions.
How long will the extra unemployment last?
Once it’s started, you may wonder how long you can expect the payments to keep coming. The extra $300 was originally scheduled to continue through March 14th. But it’s retroactive to December 27th. The newly-signed bill extends the extra relief through Labor Day of this year
Freelancers who qualify for PUA will also get the extra money a little longer. The American rescue plan also extends PUA benefits through Labor Day. However, the maximum unemployment benefits you can receive as an unemployed freelancer is 79 weeks. If you live in states with high unemployment rates, that may be extended to 86 weeks.
Unless a bill extending the extra unemployment is passed, on the cut-off date, you’ll resume receiving your standard unemployment benefits until your unemployment runs out. Currently, no extra compensation is planned after September 6th.
Do I have to be actively seeking employment?
The usual rules of unemployment still apply. You’ll need to be actively looking for work while receiving unemployment benefits even during COVID. But how you’ll demonstrate this varies from state to state. In some states, you’ll simply sign a statement saying you’re looking for work, while others will require you to provide contact information for the places you’ve applied.
However, there are some COVID exceptions to this general rule. If your business closed or reduced operations due to the pandemic, you might not have to prove that you’re looking for work. But this only applies if your employer has promised to call you back into work when the business resumes normal operations.
How will the payment be issued?
If you’re receiving unemployment compensation, the $300 will be added to your weekly benefits. In many cases, this is by direct deposit, but some recipients get their money via debit card or paper check. If you want to change the way your benefits are paid, you can usually do this through your state unemployment office.
For those who aren’t receiving unemployment compensation, PEUC is typically paid one of two ways: direct deposit or prepaid debit card. The unemployment office will use the last method of compensation to deposit your PEUC funds. If you received your previous payments by debit card, the funds will be deposited to that card unless you request direct deposit when you sign up for PEUC.
One great option for direct deposit is Chime®. Once you have an account, you can direct your unemployment benefits to go directly to that account. Chime will even give you access to your funds as much as two days earlier than what they’d normally be available with direct deposit.3 So if you’re eager to get it, this could be a way to consistently receive those weekly payments a couple of days early.3 Early access to direct deposit funds depends on the timing of the submission of the payment file from the payer. We generally make these funds available on the day the payment file is received, which may be up to 2 days earlier than the scheduled payment date.
What happens if my work fluctuates?
COVID has complicated things for some workers. With lockdowns and restrictions varying, you may be called back to work, only to be laid off again a few weeks later. But if you’re receiving unemployment benefits, you may need to reach out and let your unemployment office know. In some states, you simply have to stop certifying every week and your benefits will expire.
If you’re called back to work and laid off again, there is some good news when it comes to unemployment benefits. You can pick up your unemployment benefits where you left off. This includes the extra benefits you’re receiving. You’ll continue to get benefits until you’ve exhausted the number of weeks you’re eligible to receive them or you reach the cutoff date.
Extra unemployment compensation has helped unemployed workers make it through a tough economic time. As things gradually return to normal, hopefully, unemployment claims will drop and there will be no need for a further extension of extra unemployment benefits.
In the meantime, it’s important to check with your state unemployment office to determine what unique requirements apply to your own unemployment claims.