What the expansion of federal unemployment aid covers
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Marketplace’s Nova Safo has details. The following is an edited transcript of his conversation with “Marketplace Morning Report” host David Brancaccio.
Nova Safo: This expansion applies to the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program, which Congress established last spring in the CARES Act. A lot of people know this program as the one for gig workers, though it does apply to some others. And now eligibility is being expanded to three additional categories of workers.
The headline one is people who’ve turned down work for health and safety reasons. Turning down work can get you kicked off state unemployment aid.
But the federal government is now stepping in, saying people shouldn’t have to pick between staying safe during the pandemic and their livelihoods. Now they can get federal aid.
David Brancaccio: And what are the other two?
Safo: Certain school employees on campuses that are closed or partially closed. Also workers who are laid off or have lost hours, but the businesses that employed them are still open. Before, a business had to be closed. So think waiters at restaurants that are now takeout only. They’ll now qualify.
Brancaccio: Starting when?
Safo: The Labor Department says the earliest it expects that states will be up and running with these new guidelines is the end of March, because they have to update their systems.
But benefits will be retroactive, so people could theoretically get large chunks of money if they were previously denied aid, say, months ago, and now they are deemed eligible.
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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