Your weekly unemployment payments are about to shrink considerably if you’re one of the millions of out-of-work Americans receiving Unemployment Insurance or Pandemic Unemployment Assistance.
The sprawling $2 trillion CARES Act provides an extra $600 a week to every unemployment recipient who lost work due to the coronavirus. That provision expires July 31, unless extended through additional legislation.
“The extra $600 has been by far the most effective part of our economic policy response to the coronavirus,” Heidi Sherholz, a labor market economist at The Economic Policy Institute, said in recent testimony to the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs.
But not all lawmakers agree.
The U.S. House of Representatives recently passed the HEROES Act, which aims to preserve the $600 bonus until January 2021. But the bill was dead on arrival in the Senate. If there is to be an additional economic stimulus package, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell vowed that it would not include additional funds to unemployment programs.
Unemployment Benefits Are Shrinking. What Should You Do?
Without the $600 weekly boost, unemployment benefits won’t provide enough income for most people to stay afloat.
Average weekly unemployment payments vary by state. The latest data from the Department of Labor show Louisiana had the lowest average payment, at $210; Massachusetts had the highest, at $557.
Other CARES Act provisions that expanded unemployment programs will still be in effect, including Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, which provides weekly assistance to people who don’t normally qualify for unemployment benefits, such as gig workers and independent contractors. PUA benefits are half of your state’s average Unemployment Insurance payment.
Right now, if you live in Louisiana and are on Unemployment Insurance, you likely receive around $810 a week ($210 + $600). After July 31, your payment will be reduced to $210 per week. And if you’re on Pandemic Unemployment Assistance in Louisiana, your weekly payments will be half that: roughly $105 once the boost expires.
Here’s what you should do in the meantime.
- Seek out a bridge job now before benefits expire. According to Liz Cannata, senior HR technology and operations manager at CareerBuilder, applications to open positions are expected to explode once the $600 weekly bonus is gone. Bridge jobs might be lateral — or even downward ― career moves that aren’t always glamorous. But, hey, they pay the bills.
- Look for jobs in shipping and delivery, online learning, grocery, operations and logistics, health care or cleaning services. These fields are doing particularly well during the pandemic. Many employers in these industries have mass hiring initiatives with expedited hiring processes.
- Land a work-from-home job. More and more employers are embracing remote work. For fresh jobs with vetted companies, check out The Penny Hoarder’s Work-From-Home Jobs Portal. We post new job openings every weekday.
- Once you get some money coming in, launch a more judicious job hunt for a job you truly want. If you’re the entrepreneurial type, you might find that, with a bridge job, it’s the perfect time to test out a creative business idea or side hustle. And if you want a more traditional job, use this time to brush up your resume, put some feelers out in your network – or learn an entirely new, in-demand skill set. (Codecademy can help with that: It’s giving out 100,000 free memberships to teach jobless workers how to code and program.)
$600 a week is a serious chunk of money. Don’t wait until it’s gone to act.
Adam Hardy is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. He covers the gig economy, entrepreneurship and unique ways to make money. Read his latest articles here, or say hi on Twitter @hardyjournalism.