Personal Finance

Here's how a $300 and $400 unemployment boost compare

Key Points
  • A $1.9 trillion Covid relief bill, the American Rescue Plan, passed Saturday by the Senate raises unemployment benefits by $300 a week.
  • The House passed an earlier version with a $400 weekly increase.
  • An extra $300 a week replaces 74% of lost wages for the average person. A $400 boost would have replaced 85%.
Valera Golovniov/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Congress is on the cusp of raising weekly pay for unemployed workers by $300 a week.

The American Rescue Plan, passed Saturday by the Senate, offers a $300-a-week increase in unemployment benefits. The supplement would last until Sept. 6.

The House is voting this week on the Covid relief bill.

But the House had earlier passed a version of the aid package that offered a larger, $400 weekly supplement. Democrats reached a compromise to reduce the supplement to placate Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.V.

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"My top priority throughout these negotiations has been securing the strongest possible deal for jobless workers that could pass the Senate. This agreement achieves that," Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden, D-Ore., said Friday.

President Joe Biden is expected to sign the $1.9 trillion relief measure this week, before temporary unemployment programs expire March 14.

$300 vs. $400 a week

A $300 weekly increase in weekly unemployment benefits would come on top of standard state benefits.

Workers got $324 a week in state benefits, on average, in the third quarter last year, according to most recent U.S. Labor Department data. That aid replaced about 38% of their average pre-layoff wage, which was $847 a week.

The Senate approved President Biden's $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package — Here's what happens next
The Senate approved President Biden's $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package — Here's what happens next

An extra $300 a week would bump that replacement rate to 74%, according to a CNBC analysis.

A $400 weekly raise would have bumped it higher, to 85%.

By comparison, a $600-a-week enhancement offered by the CARES Act last year replaced 100% of lost wages for the average jobless worker.

State differences

The $300 supplement would go further in some states, especially those that tend to pay more meager benefits.

In Mississippi, for example, the average worker got $190 in weekly benefits in January, the least among all states, according to the U.S. Labor Department. An extra $300 a week there would more than double their current allotment.

Massachusetts, on the other hand, paid $521 a week to the average person, the largest amount among the states in January. A $300 enhancement in Massachusetts would offer a larger overall payout ($851 a week) compared to the Mississippi worker, but would be well short of doubling the initial aid.

More than 18 million Americans were collecting unemployment benefits as of mid-February, according to the Labor Department.