Proposed COVID-19 Stimulus Package Could Deliver Big Relief to Workers

After months of roadblocks on both sides of the political aisle, lawmakers are finally honing in on the details of a proposed COVID-19 relief package. The bill is expected to head to Congress before lawmakers head home for the holiday break. The goal is to pass the bill prior to the end of the year. This is significant because many of the ongoing government protections are set to expire on December 31.

Embedded in this COVID-19 stimulus package are a host of provisions that will help millions of American workers. Here are the key inclusions that are expected to provide immediate relief to the unemployed or gig workers struggling during the depressed economy.

Previous COVID-19 Stimulus Package

In order to understand the scope of the proposed legislation, you need to know what was previously in place. If passed, this will be the second stimulus package rolled out to Americans in an effort to help blunt the dire financial effects brought about by the ongoing pandemic. The original Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES) was passed on March 27. This package delivered $2.2 trillion of aid spread out across a wider breadth of services than the new proposed bill.

Additional Unemployment Benefits

The most significant provision of the $900 billion Bipartisan COVID-19 Emergency Relief Act of 2020 applies to the approximately 19 million Americans who are collecting unemployment benefits. If passed through as written, Americans collecting unemployment would be eligible for an extra $300 weekly payment in addition to the amount paid to them through their respective state.

This stipend would be available to qualified individuals for up to four months, between the dates of December 26 and April 19. According to the US Labor Department, this additional money would bring the average amount of benefits money to approximately $620 per week.

While this figure will certainly be helpful to some, it still falls well short of what was offered to Americans by the CARES bill. That legislation provided an additional $600 weekly payment from the end of March through the end of July. When that provision expired, an executive proclamation by President Donald Trump created the Lost Wages Assistance program. This program gave unemployed workers an additional $300 per week in benefits for up to six weeks. However, this assistance was more limited in scope, restricting the number of people who were eligible to receive the extra benefit.

Extra Help for Gig Workers

One of the hardest-hit sectors of the economy has been in the gig market. Freelance workers have traditionally had a challenging time qualifying for unemployment benefits. However, this new legislation would provide an additional four months of jobless aid to those unemployed workers collecting benefits via the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) or Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) programs.

Unlike some traditional unemployment benefits programs, PUA is available to various types of self-employed and freelance workers that have been deemed ineligible for traditional state money. The PEUC provision would extend the state benefits for an additional 13 weeks, providing more protection to workers who have lost their jobs as a result of the economic crisis.

Extending Benefits Beyond a Year

In normal times, most states will re-calculate their unemployment benefits package after each individual has been drawing the money for one year. For many workers, this one-year deadline will hit in early March. Based on past rules, many unemployed individuals would see a significantly reduced benefit or stop receiving money altogether.

The proposed piece of legislation would allow eligible workers to keep their current level of unemployment benefits beyond the year deadline. This would apply to individuals whose new benefit would be at least $25 less than what they had been receiving. The proposed extension would run through April 19, 2021.

Personal Stimulus Checks

Lastly, while not directly related to unemployment benefits, the proposed bipartisan package will also provide a personal stimulus check in the amount of $600 for every eligible adult American. Families would also receive up to $600 for each dependent child. The exact details and restrictions of the personal stimulus checks have not yet been released.

While this personal check amount is only half of what was delivered in the spring, it will still go a long way in helping some American workers to bridge the gap in their unemployment benefits and overall living expenses.

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