With $600 checks plus state unemployment, some workers who lost their jobs could end up making more

Posted at 6:48 PM, Apr 09, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-09 18:59:26-04

CLEVELAND — Unemployed workers in some states should start seeing that extra $600 a week in unemployment benefits under the CARES Act in a matter of days. New York and Alabama among those who will see checks sooner but all eligible workers will receive the money retroactive to March 29.

For some however the $600 a week represents more than they were making if they were working. If you have a $15 an hour job and work 40 hours a week your take home pay after taxes would be in the area of $450. On top of that you’d still be eligible in most cases for some level of state unemployment. U.S. Senator Rob Portman said it was the only way they could get money into the hands of those who need it quickly.

“The way the legislation works it's a flat $600,” Portman said. “To achieve that goal we were told by the unemployment insurance offices in states but also by the Department of Labor that any other approach would not be workable during this time period. In other words the software in the state's could not customize every UI benefit and if they tried to do that it would take months and we'd be beyond the crisis but they could implement something as simple as one flat amount.”

When asked if it might encourage people who are making more to stay on unemployment Portman said it’s only in place for four months and it’s not something people can just opt to take advantage of on their own.

“Under the way it works in Ohio and other states and under the federal law if you are leaving a job because you would rather go on higher wages under unemployment you're not eligible. So if you leave a job, you're not eligible for unemployment. You're only eligible if you are fired or furloughed, you've got to be laid off essentially,” Portman said.

And it lasts only as long as your employer is shut down during the coronavirus crisis

“If an employer has a job for you,” he said, “those employers can contact the unemployment insurance office and that person will no longer be eligible for benefits because a person has a previous job even though that job may pay less.”

In addition, Portman said a lot of people who have lost their jobs also lost their health insurance and paying for it on their own. “So that $600 a week goes pretty quickly if you're also having to pick up healthcare,” he said.