Expanded Unemployment Benefits Will Start This Week

We have good news and bad news on the unemployment benefit front:

The federal government will this week release funds from a coronavirus stimulus package to boost jobless benefits, but how quickly those payments reach laid-off workers depends on overburdened state unemployment systems, the head of the U.S. Labor Department said in an interview….He said funds to increase jobless payments by $600 a week—more than double the existing maximum in some states—will be distributed to states this week, but he doesn’t know when states will make such payments to individuals. The enhanced benefits were included in the roughly $2 trillion stimulus package that was recently signed into law.

So the firehose is connected to a hydrant and ready to go, but we’re not quite sure when the hook-and-ladder will get it to where the water is needed.

But it should be soon. I keep hearing that the “creaky” unemployment systems at the state level are going to be a problem, and sure, 3 million new claims in a single week is a lot. On the other hand, during the height of the Great Recession states processed nearly that many new claims each month for over a year. That’s a pretty big number too, so those systems can’t be all that creaky.

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THE BIG PICTURE

You expect the big picture, and it's our job at Mother Jones to give it to you. And right now, so many of the troubles we face are the making not of a virus, but of the quest for profit, political or economic (and not just from the man in the White House who could have offered leadership and comfort but instead gave us bleach).

In "News Is Just Like Waste Management," we unpack what the coronavirus crisis has meant for journalism, including Mother Jones’, and how we can rise to the challenge. If you're able to, this is a critical moment to support our nonprofit journalism with a donation: We've scoured our budget and made the cuts we can without impairing our mission, and we hope to raise $400,000 from our community of online readers to help keep our big reporting projects going because this extraordinary pandemic-plus-election year is no time to pull back.

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