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When will the $300 unemployment benefit start? Officials don’t know

John Moore | Getty Images News | Getty Images

More than 20 million Americans are eagerly anticipating a $300 boost to their weekly unemployment benefits.  

The sum would nearly double weekly aid for the average worker and help lift millions out of poverty.

But it’s unclear when exactly that cash will hit workers’ bank accounts.

Labor officials in several states — including California, Michigan, New Mexico, Texas and Utah — say they need input from the U.S. Department of Labor on how to implement and disburse the payments.

Trump adds uncertainty

Timing of the $300 subsidy also hinges on how soon President Donald Trump signs a Covid relief bill into law. But it’s no longer clear when — or if — Trump will sign the $900 billion measure.

In a Tuesday night tweet, the president called the bill an unsuitable “disgrace” and demanded larger stimulus checks for individuals and families. Congress passed the bill on Monday. If Trump vetoes the bill, Congress could reconvene after Christmas to override it.

Delays not inevitable

Delays aren’t a given in all states. In Arizona, for example, officials expect aid to flow uninterrupted, assuming the Covid relief legislation soon becomes law.

Arizona officials reviewed the legislation and will work through the holidays to issue the $300 boost and extra weeks of benefits starting the week ended Jan. 2 — the first week allowed for by the relief bill, according to Brett Bezio, a spokesman for the Department of Economic Security.

No timeline

The Labor Department, which oversees unemployment operations for all U.S. states and territories, can only issue official rules to states once Trump signs the bill. The agency may then take several days to provide guidelines, which help states interpret the legislation.

“Currently, we do not have a set timeline, as we are waiting for official guidance from the U.S. Department of Labor,” said Bethany Hyatt, a spokeswoman for the Utah Department of Workforce Services.

We know how desperate people are, we know families are hurting. But if we don’t do this right, it could create more harm than good.

Bill McCamley

cabinet secretary, New Mexico Department of Workforce Solutions

States would also be setting up other unemployment programs at the same time as the $300 subsidy, potentially slowing the process further.

For example, the relief bill offers 11 extra weeks of benefits to self-employed and gig workers and people collecting state unemployment insurance. It adds requirements to combat fraud, such as new documentation procedures for self-employed workers applying for benefits.

This will all occur as states process elevated levels of new and ongoing claims for benefits.

PUA and PEUC delays

Millions of workers receiving Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (for the self-employed) and Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (which pays 13 extra weeks of state benefits) may also see their benefits temporarily stop after this week. More than 14 million Americans are enrolled in these programs.

“There will be a delay in benefits for those currently enrolled in federal PUA and PEUC benefit programs,” said Jason Moon, a spokesman for the Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity.

The delay will begin on Dec. 26 and its duration is unknown as the state awaits federal Labor Department rules, Moon said. Workers will be made whole once the extensions are implemented, he said.

“People need to be patient with the process,” said McCamley, the New Mexico labor official. “We know how desperate people are, we know families are hurting.

“But if we don’t do this right, it could create more harm than good.”