Were you one of the millions of people who ended up out of a job and using unemployment benefits because of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020? It’s comforting to know you weren’t alone, but that does very little when it comes to paying your bills or making ends meet in general.
Here’s what could be ahead in 2021 and information about what you can do to manage your financial situation.
Unemployment Benefits Provide Some Relief During the Pandemic
Many people who were laid off or lost their jobs entirely are staying afloat due to an increase and extension in unemployment benefits. The enhanced benefits vary from state to state. However, in general, people received at least 11 weeks of payments and a $300 increase over what they would’ve received without last spring’s COVID relief package. Many states offered additional support.
But is it enough to keep you going into the New Year?
If you’re unsure and you have concerns about what the weeks and months ahead hold, you aren’t alone. And that’s assuming you’ve been able to collect the benefits available to you. The changes to the programs in different states and the overwhelming burden on the system from an influx of people filing left many without access to their benefits. Nearly a year after COVID first began to affect the system and the job market, many people remain confused about their options and about what the future looks like for them.
For some, the benefits will be automatic. Those already collecting unemployment don’t need to do anything to obtain the increase in weekly benefits. States automatically include the additional $300 in their payments for anyone eligible for any amount of benefits. All they’ll need to do is continue filing their weekly certification as they’ve done thus far.
People filing for benefits under Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (which is a program for self-employed individuals) or Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (which offers state benefits) also don’t need to take additional action.
Be Patient, If You Can
Officials do encourage people to be patient, though. Aid might arrive at different times in different states, so if you haven’t received something you expected so far, don’t worry. Payments will be back-paid, too, if money is due.
There are a few cases in which people will need to take action for their additional benefits. Workers who ran out of benefits in 2020 who switched to the PUA program through the end of the year likely need to reopen their PEUC claim and revert to the previous program. You can learn more about both programs here.
Officials acknowledge that this is confusing. They say the message was muddled even more when state labor departments posted additional information about the programs on their websites. In some cases, the information given by states even conflicted with federal guidelines.
What Can You Do If You are Facing a Financial Crisis during the Pandemic?
Things are bad enough for people unemployed due to COVID-19. For those already facing financial challenges, the uncertainty of the future weeks and months is overwhelming. Benefits might be available now, but for how long? And if there’s no job to return to once the pandemic wanes, there’s very little comfort in what the future holds.
If you are facing financial challenges and the increased and extended unemployment benefits aren’t helping, bankruptcy might be an option. Filing for bankruptcy puts into effect an automatic stay. This means debt collectors are legally required to stop collection efforts against you. Filing for bankruptcy can give you time to figure out your next move. It can also make your debt situation more manageable. For more information or to discuss a plan to deal with your debt in the New Year, contact the Law Office of Robert M. Geller at 813-254-5696 to schedule a free consultation.