Almost half of states are eliminating the federal enhanced jobless benefits that gave unemployed workers an extra $300 per week in aid.
Last week, Nebraska became the 24th state to announce it will stop paying jobless residents the weekly supplement known as Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation. The states that are opting out, all of which are Republican-led, say the extra aid is providing an incentive for some people to avoid work at a time when employers are struggling to find workers.
Since nearly half of all U.S. states are opting out of the enhanced aid, a total of 4 million unemployed Americans will lose roughly $23.3 billion in benefits, according to The Century Foundation.
The $300 weekly benefit was extended until September 6 when President Joe Biden signed the American Rescue Plan in March. However, the Labor Department and White House are unable to prevent states from pulling out of these federal unemployment programs.
Here are the states that have announced they will be ending the benefit, and when it expires.
As of June 1, the following 24 states have announced plans to opt out of the weekly $300 enhanced unemployment benefit. The dates when those benefits expire vary state by state.
- Alabama: June 19
- Alaska: June 12
- Arizona: July 10
- Arkansas: June 26
- Florida: June 26
- Georgia: June 26
- Idaho: June 19
- Indiana: June 19
- Iowa: June 12
- Mississippi: June 12
- Missouri: June 12
- Montana: June 27
- Nebraska: June 19
- New Hampshire: June 19
- North Dakota: June 19
- Ohio: June 26
- Oklahoma: June 27
- South Carolina: June 30
- South Dakota: June 26
- Tennessee: July 3
- Texas: June 26
- Utah: June 26
- West Virginia: June 19
- Wyoming: June 19
If you live in a state that isn't listed, the benefits are set to expire on Labor Day.
The March extension of unemployment benefits also prolonged federal unemployment programs that provided benefits for workers who aren't normally covered by unemployment insurance.
The first program, known as Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, provides benefits for freelancers, gig workers, independent contractors, and part-time workers. The second program, known as the Mixed Earner Unemployment Compensation, provides an additional $100 to qualified self-employed workers.
Four states — Florida, Ohio, Arizona, and Alaska — are opting out of enhanced unemployment benefits, but are keeping benefits in place for freelancers, gig workers, independent contractors and part-time workers until the federal deadline of September 6.
"Many individuals are not eligible for regular state unemployment insurance, so they need PEUC and PUA to get any help," says Andrew Stettner, senior fellow at The Century Foundation. "Cutting people off all together seems to be a cruel and unusual punishment."
People in some states may also find it tougher to claim regular unemployment benefits. A growing number of states are now requiring anyone collecting jobless aid to search for work and prove they're doing so.
The job search requirement has been standard practice for collecting unemployment benefits, however, many states temporarily lifted it during the pandemic. As the economy continues to reopen, the stipulation has been reinstated, and "I would expect that all states will soon be requiring work search," says Stettner.
Video by Jason Armesto and Euralis Weekes
These "work search" requirements aren't the same in every state. Some states require proof of applications, while others want proof of participation in job training programs or hiring events.
For example, in Pennsylvania, the work search requirement means residents receiving unemployment must apply for two jobs and complete one work search activity from an approved list each week. The activities include attending a job fair or posting a resume in the state's CareerLink system.
Four GOP-led states are swapping enhanced unemployment benefits for return-to-work bonuses. Arizona, Montana, New Hampshire, and Oklahoma are incentivizing unemployed residents to accept new jobs by giving them cash bonuses of up to $2,000.
Depending on where you live, the bonuses range from around $500 to $2,000 — and they come with a few caveats. For instance, in Arizona, the state is offering $1,000 payments to unemployment recipients who accept a part-time job and $2,000 to those who retain a full-time job. In order to qualify, the job must also pay $25 per hour or less.
Incentives assume that there is work to be found. Freelancers Union president Rafael Espinal says that's not the case for many. "I know there's a lot of conversation about how the economy is bouncing back, but I think it's a blanket statement to make," he says. "Not every industry is seeing the same rates of job opportunities as others."
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