Key Highlights

  • CARES Act COVID-19 relief law that added $600/week to unemployment benefits set to expire after July 31
  • Benefits would decrease by 61%
  • Amount of unemployment benefits paid to jobless workers varies by state

July 31 is the last day jobless workers are to receive the extra $600/week provided to them under the CARES Act, a federal relief law enacted by Congress during the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak. Without lawmakers authorizing an extension of this supplemental provision, unemployment benefits are to decrease by 61%.

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On average, jobless workers have received approximately $980/week, an amount roughly equal to lost weekly wages, since this provision was authorized in March. Without this increased provision, jobless workers will receive approximately $380/week or roughly one third of their prior paycheck, according to January report by the W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research.

The big differential in the amount of unemployment benefits paid to jobless workers is geography. Each state sets its own upper and lower benefit amount of weekly jobless aid benefits due to each state’s eligibility rules and the applicant’s prior income record when working. For example, most states set minimum benefits below $100/week but Hawaii’s weekly minimum falls at just $5/week. Simultaneously, Hawaii’s upper benefit amount, the second highest of all states’ average weekly benefit, comes in at $542/week.

Under the CARES Act, states could also decide whether or not to extend the length of unemployment benefits for an additional 13 weeks on top of the standard 26 weeks as was set in 2019.

As of March and the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak, 15 states in the country have been paying under $1,000/week in unemployment benefits; 29 states and the District of Columbia have been paying between $1,000-$1,200/week to jobless workers; and 7 states have been paying unemployment benefits to jobless workers of +$1,200. Massachusetts, the most generous state, has been paying unemployment benefits up to $1,234/week to unemployed workers.

This added $600/week authorized by the CARES Act has made jobless benefits higher than at any other time in the history of the unemployment insurance system created in the 1930’s as a response to the Great Depression.

Now, the question becomes whether or not Congress and the President will extend this increased $600/week benefit of +61% beyond July 31.


Thanks to the Labor Department and CNBC.

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