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A financial lifeline for millions of Americans who lost their jobs when the coronavirus pandemic brought the economy to a halt in the spring is coming to an end this weekend: The extra $600 a week in unemployment benefits on top of state benefits is expiring.
This boost has been vital in keeping out-of-work Americans and those working reduced hours afloat. The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, passed in March, created a $2 trillion economic rescue package in response to the pandemic. It provided an extra $600 through the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation program to help reduce the impact for the over 20 million affected when businesses were shuttered nationwide.
If you’ve been receiving the $600 weekly unemployment check, here’s what to know — and some suggestions on what to do now.
When does the $600 benefit end?
The relief act scheduled the benefit to end "on or before July 31." However, most states will issue the final payment on July 25, which concludes the last full payment cycle before the deadline. New York is the exception, with a July 26 cutoff.
What happens when the $600 benefit ends?
Discussions on a new relief package and how it will address unemployment are continuing in Washington, D.C. Democrats in the House approved a $3 trillion relief package in May to extend the unemployment benefit through 2020. Republicans in the Senate expect to introduce a proposal on July 27, which means it isn't likely that new legislation will arrive before the $600 benefit lapses.
It could be a matter of days or weeks before an agreement is reached. While your unemployment benefits may shrink considerably during this gap, the aid won’t stop completely. You’ll still have access to your state’s unemployment insurance if you haven’t exhausted those benefits. Another program from the original relief bill, Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, expanded unemployment eligibility for up to 39 weeks of benefits; it runs through Dec. 31 at the latest.
Whether the extra $600 weekly unemployment check returns is unclear. The scenario could play out a few different ways: The benefit could be extended in the current amount, the amount could change or the additional compensation could disappear entirely.
Contact your state’s unemployment office after any new or revised programs to find out if you’re eligible or will have to reapply for benefits.
What can you do now?
Here are a few things you can do as the $600 extra benefit comes to an end:
Continue certifying for unemployment benefits. Inform your state’s unemployment office of your unemployment eligibility. You’ll typically do this every week or two, depending on where you live. If the supplemental benefit gets renewed, it’s possible that it will be applied retroactively. Certifying your unemployment can keep you in the system and help you avoid missing out on funds.
Seek help with your bills. If you’re concerned about missing payments or getting evicted due to lost income, contact your lenders, utility providers and landlord to find out your options. Many companies are offering financial assistance during the crisis.
Work on your budget. Adjust your budget to account for the change in income. List your necessary expenses so you can anticipate what it’ll cost to cover the basics and trim additional expenses where you can. If you have an emergency fund, now could be the time to use it.