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COVID & Unemployment

What the extra $600 unemployment benefit means in your state and city

Gabriel Cortes Jul 16, 2020
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As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to devastate the U.S. economy, more than 32 million Americans are currently receiving some kind of unemployment benefit, according to the Labor Department’s July 16 report. It’s no secret that unemployment benefits vary widely across all 50 states: Most use a similar formula to calculate how much money applicants can receive, but the state-by-state applications of that formula lead to vastly different outcomes across the country, from an average low of around $100 per week in Oklahoma to an average high of almost $500 per week in Washington state.

That continued to be true even after Congress passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act in March, which, among other things, expanded the number of people who could apply for unemployment benefits and added an extra $600 per week from the federal government to unemployment checks sent out by the states.

That federal boost is set to expire at the end of July, so Marketplace and APM Research Lab analyzed data from the Labor Department to see how much more spending power the extra $600 gives recipients in each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia.

Methodology

The Labor Department now includes two special categories for people receiving expanded benefits as a result of COVID-19: Pandemic Unemployment Assistance expands the number of people who can apply and Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation extends the number of weeks people can claim benefits. We summed those two figures and added them to the regular unemployment category (called advance state claims-insured unemployment) to calculate the total number of claims in each state. We then pulled the average unemployment payment from the Labor Department’s Employment and Training Administration and mapped the results. 

The number of “current unemployment claims” may be higher than the number of people collecting benefits in a given week. In some cases, a claim may be reported as “insured” or “continued” before the claim has been approved for payment. There have been inconsistencies and delays in state data collection and reporting. Claims for regular state unemployment insurance are reported one week ahead of claims for federal PUA and PEUC.

We added the average rent for a one-bedroom apartment in each state, as well as in select large cities in each state, to provide a cost-of-living context for the unemployment benefit payments.

With additional reporting by Mitchell Hartman.

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

What do I need to know about tax season this year?

Glad you asked! We have a whole separate FAQ section on that. Some quick hits: The deadline has been extended from April 15 to May 17 for individuals. Also, millions of people received unemployment benefits in 2020 — up to $10,200 of which will now be tax-free for those with an adjusted gross income of less than $150,000. And, for those who filed before the American Rescue Plan passed, simply put, you do not need to file an amended return at the moment. Find answers to the rest of your questions here.

How long will it be until the economy is back to normal?

It feels like things are getting better, more and more people getting vaccinated, more businesses opening, but we’re not entirely out of the woods. To illustrate: two recent pieces of news from the Centers for Disease Control. Item 1: The CDC is extending its tenant eviction moratorium to June 30. Item 2: The cruise industry didn’t get what it wanted — restrictions on sailing from U.S. ports will stay in place until November. Very different issues with different stakes, but both point to the fact that the CDC thinks we still have a ways to go before the pandemic is over, according to Dr. Philip Landrigan, who used to work at the CDC and now teaches at Boston College.

How are those COVID relief payments affecting consumers?

Payments started going out within days of President Joe Biden signing the American Rescue Plan, and that’s been a big shot in the arm for consumers, said John Leer at Morning Consult, which polls Americans every day. “Consumer confidence is really on a tear. They are growing more confident at a faster rate than they have following the prior two stimulus packages.” Leer said this time around the checks are bigger and they’re getting out faster. Now, rising confidence is likely to spark more consumer spending. But Lisa Rowan at Forbes Advisor said it’s not clear how much or how fast.

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