Although Congress passed a long-awaited coronavirus relief bill in December that will extend unemployment benefits to millions of laid-off Americans, only a handful of states have started to distribute the extra federal aid.
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At least eight states began paying out the extra $300 a week in jobless aid this week, with more expected to follow in mid-January. Laid-off workers in California, New York, Arizona, Connecticut, Minnesota, Rhode Island and Texas are expected to receive the first round of sweetened benefits this week, according to state labor agencies.
South Carolina's state labor department said Monday it had already paid out more than $10 million under the freshly extended unemployment programs, including the $300-a-week boost in aid.
Meanwhile, the Washington state labor agency said it expects to begin processing the boosted payments on Jan. 15. Connecticut labor officials also expect to start paying the extra aid by mid-January, according to a statement issued Tuesday by the state government.
Many states have not said when they intend to begin issuing the money as they work to adopt the new system. Workers will be reimbursed for any gaps in aid that stem from the delay.
Under the $900 billion aid package that President Trump signed into law last Sunday, which included $120 billion for jobless benefits, unemployed Americans will receive an extra $300 per week in federal unemployment aid for 11 weeks, through March 14.
The bill also expands unemployment benefits to self-employed individuals, gig workers and those who have exhausted their state benefits by extending CARES Act programs, including the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA), a program created to provide jobless benefits to gig workers and others typically not eligible for benefits, and Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) program, which extends the typical 26 weeks of unemployment benefits offered by states by an extra 13 weeks.
Both programs were set to expire on Dec. 26 before Congress extended them.
Because many out-of-work Americans have used up their 26 weeks of state jobless aid, they have transferred to obtaining the money through the PEUC. There are about 7.3 million workers receiving PUA benefits and roughly 4.6 million receiving PEUC benefits, according to Labor Department data.