Is Your State Ending Unemployment Benefits Early?
The pandemic took a toll on the U.S. employment market, with unemployment hitting a record high of 14.7% in April 2020.
For those still relying on unemployment, there’s another news item taking shape. A growing number of states have decided to end the extra $300 a week in unemployment assistance that was part of the American Rescue Plan. Here’s what you need to know if you’re affected by this change.
Which states are affected?
For more than a year, if you were unemployed, you were able to apply to receive an extra $300 a week in unemployment compensation. This was part of the American Rescue Plan, which was designed to help Americans through the worst pandemic in a century.
But as more consumers are vaccinated, local governments are taking another look at the need for those extra payments. Some states have opted to end them altogether. In those states, eligible unemployed residents will go back to receiving the standard weekly unemployment payment.
Your first question is probably whether your state is affected. The problem is, the list is still growing. But as of today (June 3, 2021), 24 states are ending unemployment benefits. They are, in alphabetical order:
- New Hampshire.
- North Dakota.
- South Carolina.
- South Dakota.
- West Virginia.
If you’re receiving extra unemployment or Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA), which is designated for freelancers and contract workers, it’s important to check into your state’s status. In most of the above states, both the $300 extra unemployment and PUA are ending early.
The $300 in extra weekly aid wasn’t going to last forever. It was set with a 2020 expiration date, which was extended to 2021. The original aid expired in December, but that expiration date was pushed back to September 6, 2021. If the remaining states don’t opt-out of the extra unemployment, those who qualify will continue to receive the boost in unemployment until September.
Each state that has chosen to opt-out has set its own deadline for ending unemployment. Below is a list of the end dates for each state:
- June 12: Alaska, Iowa, Mississippi, Missouri.
- June 19: Alabama, Idaho, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Dakota, West Virginia, Wyoming.
- June 26: Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Texas, Utah.
- June 27: Montana.
- June 30: South Carolina.
- July 3: Tennessee.
- July 10: Arizona.
- July 19: Indiana.
States offering incentives
If your state is on the above list, there might be some good news. In some states, governments are offering extra money for those who accept employment. Those states include:
- Arizona: employees can qualify for a Return to Work Bonus of $2,000 for full-time work or $1,000 for part-time work after eight consecutive weeks of employment. You’ll need to begin this work between May 13 and Sept. 6.
- Montana: eligible employees can qualify for a one-time, $1,200 Return to Work Bonus after completing four full weeks of paid work.
- New Hampshire: through June 19, currently unemployed workers can qualify for a bonus of $500 for part-time employment and $1,000 for full-time employment.
- Oklahoma: the Return to Work incentive offers eligible workers $1,200 after six weeks of full-time work.
Unemployment benefits cutoff
There’s another cutoff that applies to pandemic-era unemployment recipients. Each state has specific timeframes for collecting unemployment. In many states, six months is the limit. But during the pandemic, this cutoff was extended, with some states allowing people to claim unemployment for a full year or longer.
The pandemic has now passed the one-year mark, though, which means that the deadline might be approaching for many unemployed individuals. Whether you’re in a state that’s cutting off extended benefits or not, it’s important to pay close attention to your benefits’ end date. You may be able to apply for an extension, but there’s no guarantee your state unemployment office will grant it.
Getting back to work
Unfortunately, for many workers, heading back into the workforce isn’t as simple as landing a job. Daycares and schools face the same staffing shortages as many businesses, which means that parents have nowhere to send their children when they go back to work.
There’s also the issue of the lingering pandemic. Even in areas where vaccines are readily available, some employees are still concerned for their personal safety. For some, permanent remote work may be the only option. But when that isn’t available, workers face the tough choice of health versus paying the bills.
For those who are in the states that haven’t yet cut off unemployment benefits, there’s still a little time to sort things out. But if you’re in one of the states ending extra payments, it’s important to know what your options are.
What to do next
If your state is on the above list, you’re probably wondering what options you have. Here are a few things to do if you’ll soon be without that extra $300 a week.
Check with your unemployment office
Just because you’re reading online that your extra unemployment benefits are ending, that doesn’t mean there aren’t other options. Unemployment compensation is decided on a case-by-case basis, using laws set at the local level. Contact your local unemployment office and find out if there are options available to you.
Consider remote work
This obviously won’t be an option for everyone. But the good news is, the pandemic has made employers more open to remote work than ever. You can often search local job sites and find plenty of opportunities where you can work from home most of the time. There are also plenty of work-from-home opportunities in this list, but you can also search online for “remote work” or “work-from-home jobs” and find some options.
Look for a bridge job
If you’re able to work at least part-time, consider a bridge job. These jobs are designed solely to get you through until things return to normal. At that point, you’ll (hopefully) be able to land your dream job. In addition to letting you pay your bills, a bridge job also helps reduce those gaps in your resume that can be concerning to future employers.
Consider summer childcare options
Parents do have one thing working in their favor: it’s summertime. The need for remote learning is put on hold for now, and there are childcare opportunities that don’t exist in the fall and winter months. If your local daycares are understaffed, consider enrolling your children in a summer camp. Local organizations like the YMCA and Boy Scouts often have summer camp opportunities, for example.
In most states, the $300 in extra weekly compensation will continue for now. But it’s important to prepare for it to possibly end soon. Stay in touch with your local unemployment office and make sure you’re aware of all your options. Even if the extra $300 cuts off, you’ll likely still be eligible for a weekly unemployment check while you continue to look for work.