Last week, Senate Republicans unveiled a new relief package that aims to continue to pay Americans extra unemployment benefits, but at a much lower rate.
In March, Congress passed the CARES Act, which set up the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation program that granted an extra $600 in weekly unemployment insurance on top of each state's base payments. Yet the law stipulated that this program was a short-term solution. It expired at the end of July.
But with more than 30 million Americans still unemployed, Republicans released the Health, Economic Assistance, Liability Protection and Schools (HEALS) Act on July 27 that, if passed, would provide $200 weekly enhanced unemployment payments through September on top of what states regularly pay in benefits. That varies dramatically, with Arizona paying an average of $280 a week, while Massachusetts offers roughly $445 per week.
The HEALS Act stipulates that in October states will need to move from offering a flat $200 federal boost to calculating a payment that replaces 70% of a workers' previous wages. At that point, the maximum boost workers can receive will be $500 per week.
The U.S. House of Representatives passed a relief package in May called the HEROES Act. The Democratic-led bill extended the $600 weekly unemployment boost through January 2021. The bill, however, has remained stalled in the Republican-controlled Senate.
The two different approaches leave many Americans questioning how much they could actually expect to get from unemployment, especially should the newly introduced HEALS Act pass. To help provide Americans with a rough estimate, the site Omni Calculator built a tool that compares what unemployed workers in each state would receive in benefits under the new HEALS Act provision, as well as what they were getting under the CARES Act.
The calculator uses where you live, your income, the number of dependents in your household and your benefit start date to estimate how much you may expect to receive under the new HEALS Act provisions.
The calculator includes a disclaimer that it's not distributing legal advice and is just an estimate, not an extract calculation, because "most states determine your usual benefit amount using a complex calculation based on quarterly earnings."
Calculator co-creator Jasmine Mah tells CNBC Make It that the wage replacement rates the calculator uses won't be exact, since each state uses a different calculation for the base unemployment insurance (UI) benefits.
Additionally, for simplification, the calculator assumes that workers earn roughly the same amount each quarter. "It's not 100% accurate, but still a reasonable estimation," Mah says. The calculator tends to underestimate, rather than overestimate, potential benefits.
"Like the calculator shows, people's incomes will drop off dramatically, just as the virus is spreading. That will force people to make some pretty tough choices," says Michele Evermore, senior policy analyst for the National Employment Law Project, who reviewed the calculator.