Joe Biden's stimulus plan would enact $400 weekly federal unemployment benefits through September 2021 — and it may continue beyond that date

Susan Walsh/APPresident-elect Joe Biden speaks during an event at The Queen theatre in Wilmington, Del., Thursday, Jan. 7, 2021, to announce key nominees for the Justice Department
  • The Biden stimulus package included a $US400 weekly federal unemployment benefit through the end of September.
  • It also renews federal unemployment programs for gig workers and people who exhausted state benefits for the same length of time.
  • “This gets money quickly into the pockets of millions of Americans who will spend it immediately on food, rent, and other basic needs,” Biden said during a speech on Thursday.
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President-elect Joe Biden rolled out a colossal $US1.9 trillion economic aid package on Thursday evening. It contains numerous provisions that could assist millions of Americans, particularly the unemployed.

His plan contains a $US400 weekly government supplement to state unemployment checks that expires on Sept. 30 among other sweeping measures. It would be a boost from the $US300 currently in place from the $US900 billion federal rescue package that Congress approved in late December.

“This gets money quickly into the pockets of millions of Americans who will spend it immediately on food, rent, and other basic needs,” Biden said during a major speech Thursday evening. “That helps our whole economy grow.”

Key provisions of the Biden plan include:

  • Extension of Pandemic Unemployment Assistance for freelancers, gig and self-employed workers until September.
  • Renewal of Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation for people who exhausted state benefits through September.
  • Finance state work-sharing programs so businesses avoid laying off employees working fewer hours without missing out on their pay.

The federal unemployment benefit is not retroactive to make up for missed payments when the $US600 payout expired in July.

The Biden plan also left out a measure favoured by many Democratic economists and policymakers called “automatic stabilizers.” It’s a mechanism tying the distribution of federal aid to economic conditions, such as a spike in the unemployment rate. They argue putting government benefits on autopilot speeds up the delivery of help to struggling families since Congress wouldn’t need to legislate.

The Biden transition team said they were interested in continuing to work with Congress on the subject. Jason Furman, a former top economist to President Barack Obama, called it “the biggest missing item” and said he hopes it is added during Congressional negotiations.

“The bill itself is a lot of dollars/month but still ends at the end of September,” he tweeted on Thursday. “Automatic stabilizers would ensure it lasts as long as needed.”

Senate Democrats are starting to make clear the Biden plan only reflected the start of talks that will ultimately forge a final economic aid plan. Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon, the incoming chair of the Senate Finance Committee, told Insider in a recent interview he favoured including stabilizers in a rescue package, along with a $US600 federal benefit.

Wyden said the latest data on jobless claims provided Democrats with “fresh ammunition” to get a $US600 federal benefit approved. Nearly 1.4 million people filed for unemployment last week, a 25% surge after the holiday season. Around 18 million Americans are still on unemployment benefits.

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