More than 11 million Americans face potential loss of unemployment benefits this spring
Up to 11.4 million workers will lose their basic unemployment benefits this spring, while all unemployed Americans could see the $ 300 additional weekly benefit disappear if a stimulus agreement is not passed, causing three unemployment programs to expire.
Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (PUC), which offers $ 300 additional weekly benefits, expires on March 14th. Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA), which provides benefits to contractors and the self-employed, and Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (PEUC), which offers an additional 24 weeks of benefits, both expire on April 11th.
"Unless Congress wants a major disruption in benefits, it is very important for them to enact them before March 14th so that no one is cut off," said Andrew Stettner, unemployment insurance expert and senior fellow at Century Foundation, told Yahoo Money. "It can be a big problem for the system to do so."
Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (PUC) or the additional $ 300 weekly unemployment benefit expires on March 14th. In addition, Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA), which provides benefits to contractors and the self-employed, and Pandemic Unemployment Benefit (PEUC) expire on April 11. Graphic: Yahoo Finance / David Foster
If benefits lapse, 5 million PEUC benefits and 6.4 million PUA benefits would be lost, according to analysis by Stettner of the Century Foundation and Elizabeth Pancotti of Employ America.
Only 733,500 of those workers could switch to Extended Benefits (EB), a federal program that offers an additional 13 weeks of benefits. However, this program is expiring in many states as the unemployment rate is falling. Only 12 states are expected to put the program into effect in April.
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For example, in densely populated states like California and New York, unemployed people cannot switch to EB programs unless further relief is provided. Approximately 2.5 million workers in California and 1.4 million in New York would lose benefits in these states.
A man wearing a face mask stands next to a "Now Hiring" sign outside a store on December 18, 2020 in Arlington, Virginia. (Photo by OLIVIER DOULIERY / AFP via Getty Images)
Phasing out these programs would also disproportionately affect black and Hispanic workers, who are now more dependent on unemployment benefits than they were in earlier stages of the pandemic.
From September to November, 20% of all state unemployment insurance (UI) applicants were black and 20% were Hispanic. This is an increase from April, when these workers were 14% and 15%, respectively, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta.
"Demography has continued to change," said Stettner. "People in this situation who are in need of unemployment benefits as the pandemic worsens are more likely to be black or Hispanic workers than they used to be."
"The most important thing is that it is passed by March 14th."
Under President Joe Biden's $ 1.9 trillion stimulus plan, the additional weekly amount of unemployment benefits would increase from $ 300 to $ 400 per week. These benefits, along with the PUA and PEUC programs, would be extended to September. The Ways and Means Committee, which is involved in drafting the Reconciliation Act, suggested that these programs should only be extended until August.
"The most important thing is that it is passed by March 14," said Stettner. "I'm really going to make sure that you make it two weeks in advance to avoid any kind of gap."
Democrats are trying to pass the $ 1.9 stimulus plan through reconciliation, which only requires 51 votes. That means the support of the entire Democratic caucus in the Senate, along with Vice President Kamala Harris' tied vote, would be enough to get them passed. Democrats have announced that they will have the reconciliation package ready for a vote in the House by the week of February 22nd.
The unemployed have faced a welfare cliff before.
The latest stimulus package in December was not adopted in time to prevent major unemployment programs from expiring late last year. That meant unemployed Americans had to wait for the program to restart or re-enroll for benefits, delaying their payments. Up to $ 17.6 billion in unemployment benefits - or 38% less than what unemployed Americans should be receiving - failed to reach their bank accounts in January, another analysis by the Century Foundation found.
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Denitsa is a writer for Yahoo Finance and Cashay, a new personal finance website. Follow her on Twitter @denitsa_tsekova.
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