The $211 she receives each week from the program plus some additional federal benefits have not been enough to keep her from falling behind on rent, and she owes her landlord $1,500. Waiting for Congress to make up its mind on the bill had been “terrifying,” she said.
“It’s the worst thing I could possibly imagine,” she said. “If you told me a year ago that the entire country would be suffering the way it is now, with no help from the government, I would have told you that would never happen. We live in America.”
More than 20 million Americans are collecting unemployment benefits and the unemployment rate stands at 6.7 percent. A year ago, before the pandemic hit, the jobless rate touched 3.5 percent, tying a 50-year low.
For those living on the edge, the recent political gamesmanship has been infuriating.
“We don’t have time for them to argue,” said Shannon Williams of Toledo, Ohio, who has lost two jobs to the pandemic. “Everybody needs help sometimes and right now, a lot of people need it.”
Many of the jobless can’t wait much longer for that help. Robert Van Sant’s unemployment benefits of $484 per week don’t cover his monthly expenses of $2,200 in rent, utilities, internet access, food and other necessities. But the additional federal money would ease the strain on his savings account, which he has been draining to make ends meet.
Lawmakers agreed to a plan to issue stimulus payments of $600 and distribute a federal unemployment benefit of $300 for 11 weeks. The bill overwhelmingly passed both houses of congress, but President Trump is resisting signing it. Find more about the bill and what’s in it for you, should the President ultimately sign it into law.
- Will I receive another stimulus payment? Individual adults with adjusted gross income on their 2019 tax returns of up to $75,000 a year would receive a $600 payment, and heads of households making up to $112,500 and a couple (or someone whose spouse died in 2020) earning up to $150,000 a year would get twice that amount. If they have dependent children, they would also get $600 for each child. People with incomes just above these levels would receive a partial payment that declines by $5 for every $100 in income.
- When might my payment arrive? Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told CNBC that he expected the first payments to go out before the end of the year. But it will be a while before all eligible people receive their money.
- Does the agreement affect unemployment insurance? Lawmakers agreed to extend the amount of time that people can collect unemployment benefits and restart an extra federal benefit that is provided on top of the usual state benefit. But instead of $600 a week, it would be $300. That would last through March 14.
- I am behind on my rent or expect to be soon. Will I receive any relief? The agreement would provide $25 billion to be distributed through state and local governments to help renters who have fallen behind. To receive assistance, households would have to meet several conditions: Household income (for 2020) cannot exceed more than 80 percent of the area median income; at least one household member must be at risk of homelessness or housing instability; and individuals must qualify for unemployment benefits or have experienced financial hardship — directly or indirectly — because of the pandemic. The agreement said assistance would be prioritized for families with lower incomes and that have been unemployed for three months or more.
“I was really relieved” to hear that the legislation had passed, said Mr. Van Sant, 51, who was furloughed from his job as a bartender in Chicago. “It would have meant I could go to the grocery store and actually buy some food that I really want instead of eating beans and bread and bologna.”
Mr. Van Sant’s future is tied to the fate of he stimulus bill. Without the aid, he said he would have to move back to his hometown Bettendorf, Iowa, where the cost of living is lower. “It just saddens me. I’ve worked my whole life to live in the city, and everything that comes with it,” he said.