If you’re one of more than 25 million Americans collecting unemployment benefits, you won’t see additional aid until after the election — at the earliest.
In the heat of negotiations with lawmakers over a second stimulus package, President Donald Trump first called off stimulus talks entirely. Then, he specified he would support a standalone bill that authorizes another round of $1,200 stimulus payments but not a broader package that includes aid to those who are out of work.
“I have instructed my representatives to stop negotiating until after the election,” the president tweeted in the afternoon of Oct. 6. Later that evening, he said in another tweet that he supports a bill for stimulus payments only: “I am ready to sign right now.”
Simply put: $1,200 stimulus checks are still on the table. Extra jobless benefits are not.
Where Does That Leave Unemployment Benefits?
The two parties have been deadlocked in stimulus negotiations for months. The July 31 expiration date of the popular $600-per-week boost to unemployment payments brought them to the table initially, but talks fizzled out.
As a stopgap measure, the president authorized the Lost Wages Assistance program by executive order on Aug. 8. That program used federal money to boost some people’s unemployment checks by $300 per week.
The LWA program expired on Sept. 5, technically, though some states are still struggling to get the money into people’s pockets. In most cases, states ended up paying out retroactively. The program also left out nearly 1 million jobless Americans who were eligible for the previous $600 boost.
Didn’t see those $300-per-week additional payments? Here’s why you may have been left out of the Lost Wages Assistance program.
With both extra payment programs expired, you’re left with your basic unemployment benefit for the foreseeable future. Depending on where you live, weekly payments vary widely.
Average state-level Unemployment Insurance payments range from $180 in Louisiana to $449 in Hawaii, according to the Department of Labor. The national average is $305 per week. If you’re on Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, you receive at least half of that: between $90 and $224.
Say negotiations restart after the elections. Recent proposals suggest weekly unemployment could be boosted by $450 to $600 per week. Though that’s far from a given, and it could be a long time before additional aid hits your bank account.
That’s because lawmakers are still deadlocked. Negotiations aren’t expected to resume until some time after Nov. 3.
What You Can Do in the Meantime
The best course of action is to make a concrete plan that will allow you to move forward, regardless of what happens in Washington.
Here are five steps you can take:
- Check to see if you’re safe from eviction. In early September, the CDC barred most landlords from pursuing evictions through the end of the year to curb the spread of the coronavirus. The CDC’s eviction moratorium covers a lot of people but not everyone — and it does not mean that your rent is forgiven. To help with that, most states have pandemic rental assistance programs in place.
- Reach out to your creditors and landlord. Financial hardship may qualify you for programs to pause or reduce your payments such as an income-driven repayment plan or deferment or forbearance for student loans. Consider negotiating with your landlord if you can’t pay rent and/or if moratoriums don’t apply to you.
- Extend your unemployment benefits. Most states offer Unemployment Insurance payments for 26 weeks. If you were approved early on in the pandemic, your benefits may be expiring soon. The good news is that the CARES Act provided a 13-week extension funded by the federal government. Here’s how the UI extension works.
- Consider seasonal employment. It’s peak hiring season, and many major employers are still recruiting en masse. The Penny Hoarder tallied more than 500,000 seasonal jobs open. Even part-time seasonal employment can net you more than the average weekly unemployment payment alone — as several seasonal employers implemented $15 minimum wages this year.
- Once you get some money coming in, launch a more judicious job hunt for a job you truly want. With a seasonal job covering your necessities, you might find it’s the perfect time to test out a 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. Remote work is always a good idea, and our Work-From-Home Jobs Portal can help find a solid job.
This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, a personal finance website that empowers millions of readers nationwide to make smart decisions with their money through actionable and inspirational advice, and resources about how to make, save and manage money.