Additional $600 per week in jobless pay is about to end

MGN Online

HARLINGEN — The extra $600 per week in federal funds tacked on to Texas jobless benefits will end in less than two weeks, the Texas Workforce Commission has announced.

The additional money for workers laid off or furloughed during the COVID-19 economic turndown was in some cases controversial, since the payout, coming on top of regular unemployment payments, was often more than the laid-off worker made at his or her regular job.

The Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation was part of the CARES Act.

While the program will end at the end of the month, the benefits in Texas will be curtailed earlier, TWC said.

“A full benefit week begins on Sunday and ends on Saturday,” a TWC statement reads. “The Act states that the program ends July 31 (a Friday), but benefits must be discontinued before the end of the month because by law TWC cannot pay partial week benefits.”

“The last full benefit week for the extra $600 is the week ending July 25,” it continued. “As a result, only payment requests for weeks ending on or before July 25 can include the additional $600. State unemployment benefits will continue to be paid after this date; they simply will not include the additional $600 anymore.”

Other provisions of the CARES Act will continue until their expiration on Dec. 26. This part of the federal program provides an extra 13 weeks of benefits to persons who exhaust traditional benefits, and Pandemic Unemployment Assistance provides up to 46 weeks of benefits to persons who are self-employed or who would not otherwise qualify for state benefits.

Regular jobless benefits vary widely between states, with a number of them offering generous benefits of more than $800 per week topped by Massachusetts at $878.

Mississippi is the lowest at an average of $213 per week, while Texas is in the middle, averaging $521 a week. Here in Texas, as in many states, the additional $600 per week more than doubled the normal jobless payout.

There is talk in Washington of resurrecting the extra $600 a week in jobless benefits, mostly among Democrats, but it seems unlikely the Republican majority in the U.S. Senate will go along.

Both the Senate Republican leadership and the White House have argued the extra jobless pay has actually led some workers to resist going back to their jobs since they were making more money while laid off.

“Unemployment is extremely important. And we need to make sure, for those who are not able to recover their jobs, unemployment is adequate,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told reporters. “That is a different issue from whether we ought to pay people a bonus not to go back to work. And so I think that was a mistake. And we’re hearing it all over the country that it’s made it harder actually to get people back to work.”

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has floated the idea of bringing back the extra $600 a week in the next stimulus package but capping benefits so workers don’t earn more money than they did while on the job.

rkelley@valleystar.com