Second Stimulus Check and Expanded Unemployment Benefits: Who Qualifies and When Does It Start?

After months of discussions, the leadership of the Senate and the House of Representatives agreed on a second economic stimulus package. At $ 900 billion, the aid is less than half of the $ 2.2 trillion offered by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, or CARES Act. It's also only a third of the $ 3 trillion proposed in legislation that the House passed earlier this year but never included in the Senate.
"It is clear that the (current agreement) was politically possible," says Rob Fischer, associate professor at the Jack, Joseph, and Morton Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences at Case Western Reserve University. While the compromise does not provide direct help to state and local governments, when it comes to families, Fischer says, "It is absolutely helpful."
The new economic agreement, announced on Sunday evening, is expected to be included in a larger spending bill, with further details pending. However, according to leaders of the House and Senate, the economic agreement includes the following provisions to help workers and families:
- $ 600 direct payments to Eligible Individuals.
- $ 300 per week in additional unemployment benefits.
- Extended unemployment insurance and benefits for freelancers.
- $ 284 billion in Paycheck Protection Loans.
- $ 13 billion in food aid.
- Extended eviction moratorium and assistance in renting out emergencies.
- $ 10 billion for childcare.
"It's a relief to know that the package helps put groceries on the table, pay rent, and prevent displacement for millions of families," said Angelo McClain, chairman of the National Association of Social Workers. However, he adds that this is only a first step. "Hopefully all members of Congress understand that this aid package is inadequate and should be viewed as a down payment."
Here are the most important regulations that affect US families.
[READ: Should You Apply for Government Aid?]
$ 600 direct payments
The inclusion of direct payments to US families was a sticking point in the negotiations. Some lawmakers urged that only targeted aid and no checks be included for all residents. In the end, the stimulus payments made it into the final deal, even though the amount is only half of the $ 1,200 granted by the CARES Act.
According to the published data, anyone earning less than $ 75,000 per year will receive a direct payment of $ 600. Reduced payments are made to those who earned $ 75,000 to $ 99,000 in 2019. Dependent children are also eligible for this payment, but adult family members are excluded. This means that a married couple with two minor children should receive a stimulus payment of $ 2,400, provided they earn less than $ 150,000 per year.
The schedule of when these payments will arrive in bank accounts has not been disclosed. In the spring, however, the stimulus payments were distributed within two weeks of the signing of the CARES law.
While that means people might have money early in the year, the government missed the opportunity to make a bigger impact, says Paul Miller, managing partner of New York-based accounting firm Miller & Company LLP. "It should have happened last week to make people feel good on vacation," he says. Approving the business cycle agreement earlier could have increased consumer confidence before Christmas and resulted in more sales for restaurants and businesses.
Additional Unemployment Payments of $ 300 per week
The CARES Act provided eligible workers with additional unemployment benefits of $ 600 per week. That support ended in July, but the stimulus agreement includes a new round of additional payments. All unemployed will receive additional federal benefits of $ 300 per week through March 14, 2021.
According to Fischer, this money could be more advantageous than the direct payments. "There's only so much you can do with $ 600," he says. The increased unemployment benefits, however, offer stable help for weeks.
The new agreement also expands the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Program and the Pandemic Unemployment Compensation Program. These offer employees improved benefits even after their state benefits have been exhausted and cover up to 50 weeks. With the expansion of these programs, 14 million workers who should lose their benefits this week should continue to receive unemployment checks.
[Read: Long-term Unemployment Budget.]
Extended unemployment insurance and benefits for freelancers
Self-employed, gig workers, or other non-traditional workers are also eligible for unemployment benefits under the expanded Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program. Some workers who have both wage and self-employment income may be eligible for additional unemployment benefit of $ 100 per week.
$ 284 billion in Paycheck Protection Loans
A $ 284 billion infusion into the paycheck protection program could help families by keeping people in the workplace. The program offers eligible employers forgivable loans to cover their payroll. The new business cycle agreement also extends eligibility for the program to non-profit organizations, tourism marketing groups and local media.
"There's no doubt that the Paycheck Protection Program has helped keep workers from losing their jobs for at least part of the year," said Brock Blake, founder and CEO of Lendio, a market for small business loans. "While more could be done for small business owners who have been disproportionately affected in certain industries and communities, any relief is good."
$ 13 billion in food aid
Families participating in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program could increase their benefits by 15% as $ 13 billion is included in the food aid agreement. The program known as SNAP was previously known as the Food Stamp Program.
With more people out of work this year, many families may be relying on SNAP for the first time. "The demand was enormous," says Fischer. The additional funds can help families expand their services.
Extended eviction moratorium and rent support
In September, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention temporarily suspended evictions for those who had reached income limits and were unable to make their full rent payments due to significant loss of income. This protection should end on December 31, 2020, but the economic agreement extends the moratorium until January 31, 2021.
The agreement also includes $ 25 billion for a federal rental assistance program. This money is being distributed by state and local governments to help tenants affected by COVID-19. Cash can be used for past and future rental payments as well as utility bills.
[READ: Strategies to Combat Eviction.]
$ 10 billion for childcare
The agreement between the House and the Senate provides for childcare assistance of 10 billion US dollars. This will be distributed to states for use in programs that provide stability to carers and families. States will be flexible in how they spend the money, and they can use it to support families or to minimize childcare costs.
While the economic agreement offers much-needed relief for American families, some say it is just a start. "I hope this bill isn't the end," says Blake. "We need business leaders and government officials who sit down and really think about what's next."
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