Californians brace for lapse in unemployment benefits as COVID-19 relief bill awaits president's signature

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- As the stimulus bill sits on the president's desk in Mar-a-Lago, federal unemployment benefits will expire on Dec. 26 unless the bill is signed.

The legislation passed by Congress would extend federal unemployment benefits and would restore the $300 federal supplement to recipients of all state and federal unemployment benefits.

It would also extend the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program by 11 weeks, which is designed to help business owners, self-employed workers, independent contractors and others not usually eligible for regular Unemployment Insurance (UI) benefits.

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Unemployment benefits, eviction protections and other emergency aid, including smaller $600 checks, are at risk.



Because of the length of the pandemic, Congress had created the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) program which provides 13 additional weeks benefits for people who have run out of their 26 weeks of benefits from a regular UI claim. The PEUC would also be extended by 11 weeks if the bill is signed as is.

If it's not signed by next week, it could disrupt payments for three million Californians, estimates the California Employment Development Department.

For Danny Baker, a bartender who has been out of work since March, a lapse in benefits would add to his financial hardships.

"Everything that I saved, my cushion per se, it's gone," he said.

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While he was briefly able to go back to work when indoor dining was allowed, he has relied on a mix of savings, unemployment and help from friends.

While hopeful the president and Congress will come to an agreement soon, like the rest of 2020, he doesn't expect a smooth ride.

"I don't know what to expect, because there has been so much political warfare. I almost don't even expect this to go through," said Baker.


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