It may be too late to close the gap in unemployment benefits

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Senate Democrats reached an agreement on Friday on extending unemployment benefits in the $ 1.9 billion coronavirus bill.

They will now try to win that pandemic bill from President Joe Biden in time to prevent a gap in unemployment benefits.

According to experts, it may be too late to stop this from happening.

“The unfortunate reality is that we have been waiting a little too long,” said Elizabeth Pancotti, an unemployment expert and policy adviser at Employ America. ‘They needed an account to [President Biden] about Valentine’s Day. ‘

Democrats approved the unemployment change in a party vote during a marathon of votes on amendments. The House now wants to approve the Senate version of the plan by next week and send it to Biden to sign into law.

Democrats want to pass their latest bailout package before March 14, the day the current $ 300-a-week unemployment benefit expires. However, the delays on Friday threaten its rapid course as the deadline approaches.

In the absence of another extension, millions of long-term unemployed will lose their income support – falling off the so-called benefits wreath.

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According to Labor Department data, more than 18 million Americans collected unemployment assistance by mid-February.

US rescue plan

House Democrats approved the U.S. Rescue Plan of 2021 law last Saturday. The bill offers unemployed benefits on Aug. 29 and increases it by $ 400 a week.

The House will have to approve the Senate’s version of the bill next week and send it to Biden’s desk.

It seems likely. But certain administrative steps and technological barriers make it a foregone conclusion that for some workers there is a gap of more than a week, experts said.

“I think there is a group of people who will end the benefits on this March 14 cliff,” said Andrew Stettner, a senior fellow at the Century Foundation.

These delays also occurred earlier in the pandemic – following the adoption of the CARES Act in March 2020, and again following measures such as assistance to lost wages during the summer and the Continuing Assistance Act in December.

However, some states performed better than others.

Federal data indicates that nearly 3 million people, for example, dropped out of the so-called benefit wreath after Christmas.

States usually have to wait for guidance from the Labor Department on the implementation of new rules after a law is passed. They then need to code and test those rules in their systems.

“Over time, our salesperson will have to reprogram the system and he will not be able to start work until we receive rules and regulations from the U.S. Department of Labor,” the Department of Labor and Employment in Colorado said of the U.S. rescue plan during a city hall said this week. .

However, the governor and other government officials are working to prevent a gap in benefits, the department said.

‘Few weeks of chaos’

On top of that, not everyone is ready to lose their help on March 14th.

The date is a ‘soft wreath’. Workers who utilize their maximum allocation of 50 benefits through temporary programs will be started.

Such people would have gathered help since the early days of the Covid pandemic.

But those who have not passed 50 weeks can receive money until April 11th. These workers have a little breathing room, Stettner said.

It is hoped that any delays will not last longer than two to five weeks, Stettner added.

What to do

Workers need to continue to ensure they have benefits like every week, Stettner said.

This way, even if there is a delay, they will repay for those weeks. States must issue these funds automatically as long as workers are certified.

“Keep doing what you do,” he said. “And if for some reason it does not go through the first time, then try.”

If workers are unable to certify for benefits, they should keep track of their efforts – for example, by taking a snapshot of failed reporting attempts or outgoing calls to a labor agency, Stettner said.

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