ORLANDO, Fla. – Congress’ historic stimulus bill meant to bring financial relief to parts of the nation’s economy is helping those filing for unemployment during the coronavirus pandemic.
The bill will give jobless workers $600 a week for at least four months, in addition to their unemployment benefits.
“If someone has already filed for unemployment insurance, they’ll get the check directly from the federal government,” Dr. Tom Smythe, financial markets expert with Florida Gulf Coast University said. “With the stimulus package, the unemployment amount will be larger.”
The massive boost in unemployment insurance, which is projected to cost about $250 billion, is a portion of the $2 trillion deal national lawmakers agreed to early Wednesday.
The deal also calls for a new pandemic unemployment assistance program, meant to provide jobless benefits to independent contractors and the self-employed who typically don’t qualify for such assistance.
Furloughed workers typically qualify for unemployment assistance so they would receive all the additional benefits under the stimulus package.
“The key is they’ll be getting more money for unemployment if they file on a regular basis," Smythe said.
It is unclear when these benefits would go into effect. The additional benefits would expire by the end of the year, according to the stimulus package.
The surge in coronavirus-related layoffs has also prompted many states to expand who qualifies for benefits, including in Florida.
The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity’s qualifications to apply for COVID-19 unemployment include the following:
- People who were ordered to quarantine by a medical professional or a government agency.
- Those who are laid off or sent home without pay for an extended period by their employer due to COVID-19.
- Those who are caring for an immediate family member who is diagnosed with the virus.
For assistance, people can utilize the department’s call center at 1-800-681-8102. It is open seven days a week due to the increase in calls. The call line is open weekdays from 7:30 a.m.-6:30 p.m. and 8 a.m.- 2 p.m. on weekends.
***Please note that there is a backlog of calls and online requests, meaning it may take longer than usual for applicants to get assistance.***