Unemployment Benefits to End on December 26th for Millions of Americans

On December 26th, over 10 million Americans will lose their unemployment benefits during a national pandemic. As the coronavirus numbers continue to rise, and the economy remains in turmoil, millions of citizens who lost their jobs due to COVID-19 will be plunged further into uncertainty.  On March 27th, in response to the sudden and rapid increase in the unemployment rate due to the COVID-19 outbreak and the closure of hundreds of businesses, President Trump enacted the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act.  The CARES Act expanded a states’ ability to provide unemployment benefits to residents impacted by the coronavirus pandemic, including those who would not otherwise be eligible.

The CARES Act will lapse at the end of the month unless Congress grants an extension. During Wednesday’s Congressional session, talks centered on a $900 billion COVID-19 relief package. The proposed relief package would include a $300 bonus per week unemployment benefit, replacing the $600 bonus that expired this summer. Also included in the bill is a potential $600 stimulus check, half of the $1200 stimulus payment initially provided by the CARES Act. While the proposed COVID-19 relief package does not meet all of the demands that Democrats have, both parties were pleased with the progress made and reached an agreement for a new package. The new stimulus package extending unemployment benefits was approved by Congress late Sunday evening. Trump is threatening to veto this bill unless it is amended to increase stimulus payment from $600 to $2000 for the American people.

Without an extension or new bill put into place, unemployment insurance recipients, including those in the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation extension program, will receive their last check at the end of December. However, under current law, Illinois residents already receiving unemployment benefits may be eligible for extended benefits if the state remains in what is considered a “high” unemployment period. The unemployment rate in Illinois is currently at 6.9%, nearly double the 3.7% rate this time last year. Those who qualify will automatically be placed in the extended benefits program and may receive an additional 13 weeks of unemployment benefits. For further information or to find out if you qualify, please visit the Illinois Department of Employment Security at https://www2.illinois.gov/ides/pages/file-a-claim.aspx

Paula J. Shelton is a freelance writer and journalist living in Chicago. Find her on social @beboldshineon.


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