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A huge coronavirus stimulus perk is going away, but here’s how to keep getting it

Updated Jun 26th, 2020 5:16AM EDT
Stimulus package
Image: JUSTIN LANE/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

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  • A centerpiece of the federal government’s stimulus package enacted in response to the coronavirus pandemic has been the wave of stimulus checks going out to most Americans as direct payments of either $1,200 or $2,400.
  • However, there’s one benefit you might not be aware of that you can actually collect retroactively.
  • Even though a boost in unemployment benefits made possible by the stimulus package Congress passed in March runs out on July 31, if you can certify that you were unemployed during that period you can still get that extra $600-per-week as back pay.

We write a lot here, for obvious reasons, about the federal government’s massive stimulus response to the coronavirus pandemic, with a particular focus on the stimulus checks that are a centerpiece of that emergency financial relief. People naturally want to know more along those lines, because the checks are a tangible bit of relief that people can benefit from quickly by spending the money — that money coming in the form of $1,200 and $2,400 checks to most Americans which they got starting a couple of months ago. And now, President Trump has signaled that he wants Americans to get another round of stimulus checks as soon as possible.

The government’s coronavirus response, however, does actually encompass a lot more than stimulus checks. The $2.2 trillion CARES Act that Congress passed in late March, for example, also included a massive expansion of federal unemployment assistant, to help the tens of millions of newly unemployed Americans by funding a $600/week boost in unemployment insurance. That benefit is set to expire July 31, but here’s something you might not know about it.

If you need it, you may actually be able to get this funding retroactively.

According to the personal finance website The Penny Hoarder, the extra $600-per-week is payable for all weeks between March 28 and July 31, as long as you can certify you were out of work during that time. “Individuals that qualify for the (Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation) $600 payment for weeks they are eligible … can be paid, even if not approved prior to the (July 31) deadline,” the Labor Department wrote in an email to The Penny Hoarder.

That means, even if you’re not approved for the extra unemployment benefits until after July 31, you can collect the benefit as back pay. In all, the time frame for the FPUC includes 17 pay periods for a total of $10,200.

The Labor Department went on to explain to the finance site that “In order to qualify for retroactive payments of either regular UI plus $600 or (Pandemic Unemployment Assitance) plus $600, claimants are required to certify their eligibility for each week claimed. States have processes to enable that.” That means, if you’ve been out of a job for an extended period of time now and only recently got approved to start receiving unemployment benefits, you can also make a claim for each week between March 28 and July 31 that you were out of work and can certify that your status was affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to a new study out this week from economists at the University of Chicago and the University of Notre Dame, this kind of assistance from the federal government has been the only thing keeping the nation’s poverty rate from exploding during the coronavirus crisis.

“The federal government considerably expanded economic support for households in a way that it never has in the past,” said Jim Sullivan, a professor of economics at Notre Dame and one of the lead researchers on the study, according to Marketplace. “That support has gone a long way.”

Andy Meek Trending News Editor

Andy Meek is a reporter based in Memphis who has covered media, entertainment, and culture for over 20 years. His work has appeared in outlets including The Guardian, Forbes, and The Financial Times, and he’s written for BGR since 2015. Andy's coverage includes technology and entertainment, and he has a particular interest in all things streaming.

Over the years, he’s interviewed legendary figures in entertainment and tech that range from Stan Lee to John McAfee, Peter Thiel, and Reed Hastings.