NEW YORK — With record-high numbers of Americans seeking unemployment benefits after losing their jobs because of the coronavirus, Congress is set to significantly enhance the program.
The $2.2 trillion rescue package nearing final approval will, for four months, add $600 a week to standard unemployment benefits, which vary by state. It also provides funding for states to let people collect their payments immediately, eliminating a one-week waiting period. And it adds 13 weeks of coverage for people who have exhausted their existing jobless benefits.
Perhaps most significantly for a large swath of America’s workforce, the legislation for the first time makes gig workers, independent contractors, the self-employed, people with limited work history and part-time workers eligible for unemployment benefits.
Such short-term measures are meant to shore up a system that wasn’t designed to cope with a surge of people suddenly thrown into the ranks of the unemployed.