GRANDS RAPIDS, Mich. — The $1.9 trillion stimulus bill is expected to pass on Wednesday.
The Senate approved it Saturday with some changes and sent it back to the house for a final vote.
It’s been nearly a year since the statewide shutdown in Michigan, and the unemployment offices are still closed.
If this new bill passes, it will mean extended benefits until fall for hundreds of thousands of Michiganders, extra weekly federal payments, and tax relief for benefits received in 2020.
Thousands across the state are still out of work for various reasons - their businesses were shut down, their jobs laid them off, or they had issues with childcare and COVID.
If Congress approves the new American Rescue Plan, more federal help is on the way.
“The measures around stimulus checks and unemployment did a whole lot of good to stabilize households who had no other income coming in,” said Patrick Cooney, assistant director of economic mobility at Poverty Solutions at the University of Michigan.
He helps manage projects between the school and city of Detroit.
“There’s a whole lot of people still aren’t in labor force, there’s a whole lot of people who have been long-term unemployed so the share that are not working is still kind of stubbornly high,” he said.
There are four key things to focus on that would affect unemployed workers in the new bill. They include the extended benefits, federal weekly boost, new rules about refusing to work, and also paying taxes on your earnings.
Current extended benefits expire this weekend on March 13th in Michigan. The new bill provides an additional 29 weeks until September 6th. Meaning claimants who had 50 weeks would be able to claim up to 79 weeks.
There would also be another $300 weekly federal boost.
But the UIA tells me it’s not sure when that will start here or how soon the extensions will pop up. That’s because the bill technically hasn’t been signed into law and the agency needs to wait on guidance from the US Department of Labor.
“And this package should be signed into law by then, but as we know from December, there’s sometimes a lag between what gets signed at the federal level and what gets implemented at the state level,” said Cooney.
Eligibility guidelines were also expanded to include people who refused to return to work or accept a job offer if their workplace is not complying with local, state and federal covid guidelines.
But people cannot just use that excuse without proof as the state would need to verify the safety claims. If it’s determined the employer is not following the rules, that would likely make you eligible.
“So, if folks still have a just cause that’s related to the pandemic that is keeping them from pursuing work, my understanding is that would continue,” said Cooney.
Once this bill passes it will make the first $10,200 of unemployment benefits tax free and that’s retroactive for 2020.
So, if you haven't filed your taxes, you may want to wait. If you have, you can always amend your return.