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$300 bonus unemployment checks: When do payments go out? Here's what you should know

We have a breakdown of what unemployed workers will get from the American Rescue Plan and how they can qualify for a tax exemption.

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The $300 weekly bonus will continue into September.

Sarah Tew/CNET

President Joe Biden's American Rescue Plan passed on March 11 included another round of stimulus checks, more money for the child tax credit and more weeks of bonus $300 unemployment checks. With the coronavirus pandemic passing its year mark, some unemployed workers are finding their states slow on sending these extra payments. 

The Department of Labor said on March 15 there might be a delay on the supplemental payments and some states are having issues sending out their standard benefits. Unemployed workers also have another issue to face:  the benefits year ending (BYE) date. States limit benefits to one year and typically that claim filed is done with no more money coming after that date. The American Rescue Plan extends unemployment insurance, but the states require recipients to either file a new claim or an extension. It varies from state to state and those who have been on unemployment for a year should get in contact with their state's labor department. 

The bill includes another provision for unemployed workers in the form of a tax exemption. The IRS provided guidance on how to use the tax exemption for unemployment insurance on your taxes. The plan lets tax filers who received benefits exempt the first $10,200 of funds as long as their modified adjusted gross income is less than $150,000. As for those who already filled out their taxes, the IRS says it's working on instructions for filing an amended return to receive the exemption. However, there are 13 states who are not providing a tax break according to CNBC: Colorado, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, North Carolina, New York, Rhode Island, South Carolina and West Virginia.

Here's everything you need to know about how the new package will help people who are unemployed. 

I'm out of work. How much money would I get under Biden's plan?

Biden's $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package will extend enhanced unemployment benefits until Sept. 6, for $300 more per week on top of what your state pays. That's down from the $400 federal bonus proposed in an earlier version of the bill, and down also from the $600 per week extended in the CARES Act.

The period between March 14 and Sept. 6 spans 25 weeks. If the payments were to pick up immediately, that's $7,500 extra in federal unemployment insurance that you could count on, in addition to your state's check amount. 

The Department of Labor this week, however, warned that because of the time it will take to make the changes in the new bill, "many states will need until the middle of April or later to implement the new provisions and begin notifying individuals."

The bill was signed before previous checks from the previous package expired, on March 14 and it's unclear if payments will be retroactive.

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How does the $10,200 tax exemption work?

The IRS views unemployment insurance as income. In most cases, the state will withhold taxes like a typical paycheck. However, it's estimated that 10 million unemployment benefit recipients had no taxes withheld, which would mean they would have a substantial tax bill to pay. To counter that, the COVID relief bill includes a tax exemption of $10,200 for those with an adjusted gross income less than $150,000.

The way the exemption works is the first $10,200 of unemployment insurance will not be taxable. If someone received $20,000 of benefits in 2020, they will only be taxed on $9,800 of it. 

The IRS gave instructions on how to enter the exemption on tax forms, but it has yet to provide details on how to fill out an amended return for those who already filed their taxes. 

Some states will also have a tax exemption on state income taxes, but not all of them. Here are the 13 states not providing a tax break:

  • Colorado 
  • Georgia 
  • Hawaii 
  • Idaho
  • Kentucky
  • Massachusetts 
  • Minnesota
  • Mississippi
  • New York
  • North Carolina
  • Rhode Island
  • South Carolina
  • West Virginia

What other changes were in the American Rescue Plan? 

States have a limit on how many weeks a person can stay on unemployment. Most provide 26 weeks, with some going as low as 12 weeks and others as high as 30 weeks. Considering how long the pandemic lasted, the federal government extended the number of weeks to 23. Under the new plan, the extension will increase again to 53, which should allow those unemployed for most of the pandemic to continue receiving benefits. 

The extension also applies to Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, or PUA, which is for workers who normally don't receive unemployment insurance. This includes gig workers, freelancers and those who are self-employed. 

Will the $300 bonus check be retroactive? 

The unemployment payments do not appear to be retroactive. 


For millions of out-of-work Americans, unemployment insurance is a lifeline.

Sarah Tew/CNET

What is Mixed Earner Unemployment Compensation and how do I qualify?

The original CARES Act had unemployed workers either get their benefits from the state through unemployment insurance or through a federal program called PUA. Someone who was self-employed or who worked as a gig worker, freelancer or contractor who doesn't typically receive unemployment benefits after being laid off could receive PUA instead. 

The December stimulus bill added additional compensation for someone who earned a combination of income from a traditional job and employment as a contractor, who would either receive the unemployment insurance payment or the PUA, but not a combination of both. That's also included in Biden's American Rescue Plan. 

With Mixed Earner Unemployment Compensation, a person who made more money from self-employment or a contracting job -- that requires a 1099 form -- could receive an extra $100 a week. For example, let's say you made $50,000 in 2019, which was split between $30,000 coming from a contractor job and $20,000 from a part-time job at a company. If you were laid off, the state unemployment office would calculate whether you'd receive benefits for the $30,000 via PUA or $20,000 via unemployment insurance but not a combination of the two. 

Though someone who works a traditional job and makes $50,000 a year in New York would receive $480 a week from unemployment insurance, by having a mix of the two you'd get the greater of the two different amounts, which would be the PUA of $288 a week rather than the $280 from unemployment. 

Mixed Earner Unemployment Compensation will now give that person an extra $100, but only if the state participates. It may be some time before states will determine whether they will or not after the bill gets passed. 

What happens after Sept. 6? 

Now that the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill has passed, there will likely not be any discussion of extending benefits until the expiration date nears again in September.

What are the qualifications to receive the $300 bonus payments? 

If you've been laid off or furloughed, you're qualified to apply for unemployment benefits from the state where you live. Once the state approves your claim, you can apply to receive whatever state benefits you're entitled to. Because states cover 30% to 50% of a person's wages, there's no single sum you could expect on a national basis.  

Do I qualify for the additional federal unemployment insurance?

Eligibility criteria vary from state to state, but the general rule is that you should apply if you've lost your job or been furloughed through no fault of your own. This would include a job lost directly or indirectly because of the pandemic

In February, the Department of Labor, as directed by Biden, updated its eligibility requirements to include people who refused to return to work due to unsafe coronavirus standards. Workers will qualify for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance when it goes into effect by the end of March. 

How does my state calculate unemployment benefit amounts?

The state determines how much each applicant receives, usually based on an individual's gross income. It varies from state to state but is typically between $300 and $600. 

How do states handle unemployment payments?

Most states provide up to 26 weeks of funding, though others, such as Georgia, have limited benefits to 12 weeks, whereas Delaware extended benefits for up to 30 weeks. 

The weekly benefit amount depends on an applicant's gross income when employed and ranges between $300 and $600, with some exceptions. Mississippi had paid up to $235, while Massachusetts' maximum has been $1,220. Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation from the CARES Act added an additional 13 weeks funded by the federal government, but another stimulus bill with unemployment insurance would need to pass in order to extend it further. The latest COVID-19 relief package would add another 11 weeks of PEUC. 

How can I see my state's unemployment insurance policy?

Each state's labor office provides information about its particular unemployment benefits.