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As confirmed coronavirus cases continue to climb across the U.S., a vast amount of businesses remain shut down – leaving many American workers without a job, or with reduced hours.
Initial jobless claims last week hit the highest level in recorded history – at nearly 3.3 million.
And the situation is likely to become more challenging.
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James Bullard, president and CEO of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, said during an interview with Bloomberg over the weekend that the U.S. unemployment rate could hit 30 percent during the second quarter. The Economic Policy Institute has predicted that as many as 14 million Americans could find themselves without a job by summer.
The federal government and lawmakers are aware of the effects measures that have been taken – including requiring businesses to shutter their doors and Americans to stay home – have had on workers. In legislation that is expected to be approved by Congress this week, lawmakers intend to make historic changes to strengthen unemployment insurance for people who cannot work due to the coronavirus.
Under the $2 trillion legislation, additional emergency benefits will be provided to each recipient.
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In dollar terms, on top of state benefits, eligible Americans can receive an additional $600 per week for as many as four months.
California Gov. Newsom said during a press briefing this week that in his state, workers could be eligible to receive as much as $1,000 per week under the bolstered assistance plan.
Baseline benefits vary by state, but the average benefit is $364, according to the American Action Forum.
The bill provides for an additional 13 weeks offered by the federal government after state benefits are no longer available through the Emergency Unemployment Compensation program. That means for a state with 26 weeks of coverage, the total would be extended to 39 weeks.
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Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s office said on Thursday that benefits will be expanded to the self-employed, independent contractors, gig workers and others – through a new Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program. This would provide as many as 39 weeks’ worth of benefits to workers who wouldn’t traditionally qualify, but have found themselves out of work, unable to work or with reduced hours as a result of the coronavirus outbreak.
The federal government will help states work through their needs to fund the expanded aid.