$300 bonus unemployment checks are on their way now. What you should know

January 14, 2021 0 By boss

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More unemployment checks are coming, one state at a time. 


Sarah Tew/CNET

The deadline for the IRS to send second stimulus checks to those who qualify is Friday, Jan 15. These $600 payments were part of a $900 billion COVID-19 relief package signed by President Donald Trump in late December, which also included 11 weeks of $300 weekly bonus checks for unemployed workers and a one-month extension to the eviction moratorium. Most of the states began sending out the extra funds this week, while the remainder will be ready within the coming weeks. 

28 states have sent the $300 unemployment checks, according to a report from Yahoo Finance Monday. More states will begin processing the bonus payments later starting next week. On Jan. 5, the US Department of Labor issued guidance to the states on how to allocate relief funds for unemployed workers.  

We’re here to answer as many questions as we can, given the current information available, including whether the weekly unemployment bonus includes retroactive payments and who meets the eligibility requirements. Here’s what we know so far about the contents of a potential Biden stimulus package. We recently updated this story.

How long will the $300 extra unemployment checks last?

At this point, the new checks should start to arrive soon, though it depends on how long it’ll take the states to begin processing payments. Checks are authorized to last until March 14, but there’s an overflow period that lasts until April 5 for those who exhausted their state’s benefits before the expiration date. 

Which states are sending out $300 bonus checks?

According to Yahoo Finance, 28 states already began sending the extra payments. This includes:

  • Oregon
  • Texas
  • Idaho
  • Utah
  • Nevada
  • Arizona
  • New Mexico
  • Montana
  • North Dakota
  • Nebraska
  • Minnesota
  • Illinois
  • Louisiana
  • Mississippi
  • Alabama
  • Georgia
  • Tennessee
  • North Carolina
  • South Carolina
  • Maryland
  • Delaware
  • West Virginia
  • New York
  • New Hampshire
  • Vermont
  • Connecticut
  • Massachusetts
  • Rhode Island

There are four states sending some unemployed workers the weekly bonus and is working on sending it to all recipients in the coming days:

  • California
  • Michigan
  • Pennsylvania
  • Indiana

The rest of the states have yet to send the additional funding. Of them, New Jersey, Washington, Wyoming, South Dakota, Virginia, Ohio and Iowa will start processing the extra payments next week. 

Kentucky has yet to send out the bonus checks, but Gov. Andy Beshear signed an executive order Tuesday to give unemployed workers a one-time payment of $400 if they didn’t qualify for enhanced unemployment benefits, and $1,000 to those who have yet to receive any checks. 


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Are the $300 bonus weekly checks retroactive?

Though the language of the stimulus bill doesn’t specify whether the unemployment bonus is retroactive, that doesn’t appear to be the case, The Washington Post has reported. Observers don’t expect that we’ll see a federally instituted lump sum payment to make up for previous weeks of not receiving a $300 check.

What is Mixed Earner Unemployment Compensation? How do I qualify?

The original CARES Act had unemployed workers either get their benefits from the state through unemployment insurance or through a federal program called Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, or PUA. Someone who was self-employed or who worked as a gig worker, freelancer or contractor who doesn’t typically receive unemployment benefits after being laid off could receive PUA instead. 

In the language of the new bill, however, someone who earned a combination of income from a traditional job and employment as a contractor would either receive the unemployment insurance payment or the PUA, but not a combination of both. 

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Sarah Tew/CNET

With Mixed Earner Unemployment Compensation, a person who made more money from self-employment or a contracting job — that requires a 1099 form — could receive an extra $100 a week. For example, let’s say you made $50,000 in 2019, which was split with $30,000 coming from a contractor job and $20,000 from a part-time job at a company. If you were laid off, the state unemployment office would calculate whether you’d receive benefits for the $30,000 via PUA or $20,000 via unemployment insurance but not a combination of the two. 

Though someone who works a traditional job and makes $50,000 a year in New York would receive $480 a week from unemployment insurance, by having a mix of the two, you’d get the greater of the two different amounts, which would be the PUA of $288 a week rather than the $280 from unemployment. 

Mixed Earner Unemployment Compensation will now give that person an extra $100, but only if the state participates. It may be some time before states will determine whether they will or not after the bill gets passed. 

What are the $300 bonus weekly checks qualifications? 

If you’ve been laid off or furloughed, you’re qualified to apply for unemployment benefits from the state where you live. Once the state approves your claim, you can apply to receive whatever state benefits you’re entitled to. Because states cover 30% to 50% of a person’s wages, there’s no single sum you could expect on a national basis.  

When the CARES Act passed in March, it provided unemployed workers with a weekly bonus check of $600 on top of the amount the state was offering, but those payments ended in July. Trump’s executive memo signed on Aug. 8 reinstated a bonus weekly check for a reduced $300 funded by the federal government through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). These were offered for only six weeks to states that applied (which means all except South Dakota). Those receiving PUA would also receive the $300 bonus. 

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Sarah Tew/CNET

Do I qualify for the additional federal unemployment insurance?

Eligibility criteria vary from state to state, but the general rule is that you should apply if you’ve lost your job or been furloughed through no fault of your own. This would include a job lost directly or indirectly because of the coronavirus pandemic

How does my state calculate unemployment benefit amounts?

The state determines how much each applicant receives, usually based on an individual’s gross income. It varies from state to state, but is typically between $300 and $600. 

How do states handle unemployment payments?

Most states provide up to 26 weeks of funding, though others, such as Georgia, limited benefits to 12 weeks. On the other hand, Delaware extended benefits for up to 30 weeks. 

The weekly benefit amount depends on an applicant’s gross income when employed and ranges between $300 and $600, with some exceptions. Mississippi had paid up to $235, while Massachusetts’ maximum has been $1,220. Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation from the CARES Act added an additional 13 weeks funded by the federal government, but another stimulus bill with unemployment insurance would need to pass in order to extend it further. The latest COVID-19 relief package would add another 11 weeks of PEUC. 

How can I see my state’s unemployment insurance policy?

Each state’s labor office provides information about its particular unemployment benefits.

If you’re interested in stimulus checks, here’s what we know so far about the bid for a $2,000 per person stimulus payment and what’s been said so far about a third stimulus check in 2021

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