Unemployment benefits: What Changes are coming with the new relief bill


When the economy began to crash in March as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, perhaps the hardest hit group of people in the population were workers. After hovering around record lows of 3.5% to 3.7% for months, the unemployment rate jumped to 4.4% in March 2020 and then skyrocketed to 14.7% in April. Since then it has only come down slightly, to 13.3% in May and 11.1% in June. Since February, the number of unemployed people in the country has grown by 12 million, with now nearly 18 million Americans out of work. In some places in the country, more than 25% of the local population are without work, rivalling the unemployment rates of the Great Depression.

When workers are unemployed, of course, there are countless damaging ripple-effects throughout the economy. Retail spending plummets. Travel and tourism dries up. Debt soars. Loan defaults increase. Rent payments stop and evictions rise. Mortgage payments stop and foreclosures rise. Supply chains—from wholesalers to farmers and from manufacturing to importation—are disrupted. In an effort to mitigate at least some of that damage and to help American families survive the crisis, Congress passed the bipartisan Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) on March 27. This bill pumped $2.2 trillion in economic stimulus into the country in the form of assistance of small businesses, payroll protection, direct payments to Americans, and increased federal unemployment payments to supplement state unemployment. The CARES Act also allowed states to extend unemployment benefits to groups of workers not traditionally covered by state unemployment, including independent contractors.

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