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Millions of unemployed workers in 23 states will soon lose access to their weekly $300 federal jobless benefits.
Under the American Rescue Plan passed in March, those benefits are due to expire on Sept. 6, but nearly half of U.S. states are ending access early. As many as 3.8 million workers are due to lose assistance as early as June 12.
As of Tuesday, the following 23 states have announced plans to opt out of the weekly $300 enhanced unemployment benefit:
- New Hampshire
- North Dakota
- South Carolina
- South Dakota
- West Virginia
Jobless residents in states that opt out of the $300 federal benefit may still be eligible to receive state-issued unemployment benefits. And at least 22 states may replace the $300 unemployment benefit with cash bonuses up to $2,000 for those who return to work.
Though the return-to-work bonus is meant to address a perceived labor shortage resulting from the pandemic, economists are still skeptical that cutting up to $1,200 per month in supplemental federal funding will help Americans get back on their feet.
If you live in a state that has (or may) cut the weekly jobless benefit, it's best to prepare and know your options when the extra income runs out. Visit your state's labor department, either in person or online, to view the latest information.
Once you know whether your weekly jobless benefits will expire — and when — you can start to make some decisions based on your needs.
Governors in charge of states pulling out of the program did it because they say businesses in their states are struggling to find workers and the weekly unemployment benefit disincentivizes work.
But economists worry that ending federal supplemental unemployment early will impact those most affected by the recession, noting that $1,200 in extra benefits isn't enough to keep people at home. Instead, they believe that families are still struggling to cover child care and other costs associated with going back to work during our "new normal."
If your jobless benefits are due to expire this month, here are some steps you can take to prepare.
Learn about your state's back-to-work program
Most states cutting federal unemployment are offering a one-time bonus for those who return to work. Bonuses range from around $500 to $2,000 — but they come with a few caveats. States might give higher bonuses for full-time work and also require that you stay at the job for a minimum number of weeks before you can qualify for the bonus.
Arizona's Back to Work program, for instance, offers $1,000 payments to unemployment recipients who accept a part-time job and $2,000 to those to accept a full-time job. However, the job must pay $25 per hour or less (equivalent to a $52,000 yearly salary) for workers to qualify.
Meanwhile, New Hampshire's Summer Stipend Program pays $500 to part-timers and $1,000 to full-timers, and workers must stay employed at the same place for 8 weeks.
Look for extra state assistance
Some states may be offering additional assistance for other costs associated with going back to work. Arizona, for instance, will provide three months of child care assistance for qualifying individuals making $52,000 per year or less with children who return to work after being on unemployment.
Another benefit your state may offer is a free access to job postings. Tennessee, for example, offers a free database with more than 250,000 job postings. It's not monetary assistance, but perusing listings in your state could help you get started on your job search, which can often feel overwhelming when you don't know where to begin.
Look for free training
Some states might give workers through the summer to qualify for the return-to-work bonus. To make your job application more competitive, or to simply give yourself a boost while looking for a side hustle, you might look to free online training to sharpen your skills.
The state of Tennessee, through a partnership with Coursera, provides free online training for various industries. Users must sign up for a Jobs4TN account then email Coursera with their information to access courses and professional certifications on email marketing, supply chain, project management, coding, app development and more.
And if your state doesn't offer free training opportunities, look to the internet. Google offers courses through its Digital Garage, some of which take just two hours to complete.
Adjust your budget
It may go without saying, but if you're going to lose unemployment benefits you should try and reduce costs in whatever way you can without sacrificing your health and well-being. For many, $1,200 per month was not enough to cover every bill, but it may have been a buffer that helped you weather reduced hours or furlough. And, of course, for others, $1,200 barely put a dent in rent and they may feel like they're scrambling.
If you were expecting $1,200 per month from June through September, that's $4,800 you may have to make up for in your budget somehow. Ask yourself how you will manage without that money. Will it come from another source, such as a new job? Or can you cut enough costs to compensate for the missing income? If you have savings left over from your stimulus check, add up how many months it will last you before it runs out. If you can't make it to September, see how much time you have before you need to be bringing in money from a job.
And while it's not desirable to pay interest, using 0% APR credit card could give you up to 20 months (in some cases) to repay any costs you incur today. Having a good to excellent credit score increases the chance that you can qualify for the best no-interest cards. Standout cards on our list include the U.S. Bank Visa® Platinum Card, the Citi® Double Cash Card and the Amex EveryDay® Credit Card. Learn how 0% APR cards work.
Here are our top picks for best free budgeting tools.
Gmail account users can access a variety of free budgeting templates to help get started
Categorizes your expenses
Users manually input their expenses, but some budgeting templates offer preset categories
Links to accounts
No, but some templates offer third-party add-on software that automatically pulls financial transactions into Google Sheets
Offered on web browser and smartphone devices
Google server protection: Unless you've shared your Google Sheet with someone, nobody can access your files without your Gmail account username and password. For this, Google offers two-factor authentication and physical security keys like YubiKey
See our methodology, terms apply.
Look for gig work
Parents in particular are feeling the squeeze, from the lack of childcare options to uncertainty about whether school will be remote or in-person next fall. Add on the fact that job hunting can sometimes take months, and it's clear to see how hard it is to drop everything and find a full-time job right now.
It might, therefore, be wise to take some of the pressure off. Maybe there are more flexible gig options in your area to buy you time and earn you cash until your "dream job" comes along. You could make a TaskRabbit profile or offer your services on Thumbtack. Perhaps you can offer group tutoring to school children in your area, walk dogs on Rover or check your local Craigslist events page for gig workers needed for one-time commitments.
Of course, gig work might feel like a temporary solution, but it can buy you time until your gig becomes a full-time business, or you're ready to focus on finding a longer-term job.
This year has been challenging for millions of Americans, and the loss of your $300 weekly federal unemployment benefit may feel like a hit when you're already down. It's OK to find temporary solutions right now, even if you don't know exactly where you'll end up. Take advantage of free resources, return-to-work benefits, any childcare assistance and flexible work options while you map out a plan for the future.