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CARES Act includes $250 billion to expand unemployment benefits


Late on March 25, 2020, the Senate passed the third emergency response package aimed at addressing the nationwide impact of COVID-19, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, Economic Security Act (CARES Act). With state unemployment offices experiencing an unprecedented spike in claims and filings for U.S. unemployment benefits poised to surge to more than 2 million, the CARES Act allocates $250 billion in unemployment benefits for workers directly impacted by COVID-19.

Here are the highlights of the unemployment expansion:

  • In most states, laid-off workers can receive a maximum of 26 weeks of benefits. The bill extends unemployment benefits for an additional 13 weeks (up to 39 weeks total).
  • Covered individuals are also eligible to receive $600 weekly payments for up to four months in addition to their weekly unemployment benefits, the combined total of which is estimated to be approximately 100% wage replacement for average workers. Some lower-income workers may get more than their usual wages.
  • Individuals who are self-employed and independent contractors (including Uber drivers and gig workers) are eligible to receive unemployment compensation benefits. The Act also includes financial support to state and local governments and nonprofits so they can provide unemployment compensation benefits to their employees.
  • To be eligible for the expanded unemployment benefits, individuals will have to certify that they are able to work but out of work because of one of the listed reasons, all of which are directly related to COVID-19 (e.g., being diagnosed with COVID-19, caring for a family member who has been diagnosed with COVID-19, school closures, quarantines, etc.).
  • The expansion in unemployment benefits expires at the end of 2020 in recognition of the temporary nature of this challenge.

The House is expected to debate and vote on the CARES Act either late Thursday or early Friday morning. Stay tuned for updates.


Mark Peters
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