The $600 a week in extra COVID-19 unemployment benefits that many laid-off U.S. workers have been expecting are showing up unevenly.
Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont said Tuesday (April 28) that his state’s first batch of $600 unemployment payments went out over the weekend, but other states have struggled to send the money.
The additional cash, part of the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, is retroactive to March 27. Administered by states, the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program provides the additional benefit to unemployed workers who are receiving jobless benefits.
The extra money will be provided through July to workers who are unemployed as a result of COVID-19, including those who are self-employed. In addition, the CARES Act provides up to 13 weeks of unemployment insurance benefits to individuals who have exhausted their previous benefits.
However, some states have reported technical delays or other problems getting the extra $600 flowing. “Our Department of Labor worked day and night to come up with the technological fixes to ensure benefits were distributed in a timely way to our residents,” Lamont said in a statement. “There are hundreds of thousands in our state relying on our Department of Labor to help get them through this crisis, and the state’s loyal and hardworking team never lost sight of that."
In Massachusetts, the federal money began going out on April 9. “We are committed to moving as quickly as possible to get workers the benefits they deserve during these unprecedented times, and will continue to communicate with the public about the status of these benefit programs,” Governor Charlie Baker said in a statement.
But in Washington State, unemployment officials wrote on their Web site that "because payments are taking longer than usual to process due to the volume, there may be a gap between them. They are coming and we apologize for the delay."
For many who are collecting jobless benefits, the total federal and state funds are equivalent to the full pay they were receiving. For example, a $400 regular weekly payment from the Massachusetts Department of Unemployment Assistance becomes $1,000 with the federal money added, if only for a period of months.
“I would never two months ago have ever thought of advocating for 100 percent income replacement,” Michele Evermore, a senior policy analyst at the National Employment Law Project, told The New York Times. “But then when the pandemic hit, it was very different. We needed a policy mechanism to do something that unemployment insurance doesn’t usually do, and that’s keep people home.”
As PYMNTS reported, this is not the first time the government has provided taxpayers with relief. In 2001, most households received up to $600. In 2008, up to $1,200 was distributed per household. The goal in both cases was to stimulate spending among consumers in an effort to boost a sluggish economy.