President Trump has signed a $2.3 trillion coronavirus relief and government funding bill, after spending almost a week threatening a veto over the size of the stimulus payments that would be sent directly to Americans.
The relief package, signed into law on December 27th, provides an extra $300 per week in unemployment benefits to out-of-work Americans, on top of whatever the state provides, for 11 weeks. The $2 trillion CARES Act, the historic rescue package passed in March 2020 in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, had previously given individuals a federal supplement of $600 per week in unemployment benefits. That provision expired at the end of July 2020.
The new law also extends two unemployment programs created by the CARES Act that were set to expire at the end of 2020:
- The Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program allows freelancers, gig workers, and other self-employed individuals to qualify for unemployment benefits.
- The Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) program provides for 13 additional weeks of federally-funded benefits when the state payments run out (usually after 26 weeks).
The relief package also continues to allow individuals who can’t work because they’re ill, under quarantine, or caring for children whose schools are closed to qualify for unemployment. Unless they’re extended again, both unemployment programs—the PUA and the PEUC—will close to new claimants on March 14, 2021, and expire for existing claimants on April 5, 2021.
The legislation also provides up to $300 billion in aid for small businesses, much of it in the form of forgivable loans from the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). And, while the new law provides for another round of stimulus checks to Americans, President Trump and many in Congress would like to see the amount increased from the $600 in the legislation to as much as $2,000 per adult. The Senate is expected to vote on this before the end of 2020.