COVID-19 and Unemployment Compensation
Since COVID-19 started in March 2020, Congress has passed laws that have expanded the Unemployment Compensation program to help people get through the pandemic.
First, these laws have covered more people. Before COVID-19, the regular Unemployment Compensation system covered only people who were “employees” of a business. Independent contractors, “gig workers,” or “freelancers” were left out. But the new laws expanded coverage to people who are self-employed.
Second, the new laws have increased the amount of unemployment compensation people have been paid during certain time periods.
Third, these laws have expanded the number of weeks people can get unemployment compensation.
These expansions have been extended a few times as COVID-19 has continued to cause problems. Most recently, in March 2021, Congress passed the American Rescue Plan which provided extensions for certain benefits and added additional tax benefits.
Here is a summary of the changes from the American Rescue Plan in March 2021:
(1) People who are self-employed, gig workers or those not eligible for traditional unemployment benefits are eligible to receive unemployment (Pandemic Unemployment Assistance).
(2) People who have been unemployed for a long time (have already used their “regular” unemployment for 26 weeks) are eligible for help longer (Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation).
(3) Under the American Rescue Plan, you can receive an extra $300 per week on top of the state benefit amount.
These “extra” benefits are available in West Virginia until June 19, 2021.
Also, under the American Rescue Plan, the first $10,200 in unemployment benefits received in 2020 are not subject to federal taxes for individuals making less than $150,000. For married couples filing jointly, up to $20,400 in combined unemployment income is not subject to federal taxes if the couple makes less than a combined $150,000 and both individuals received unemployment compensation. West Virginia also passed a law that says this same standard applies to West Virginia state taxes for unemployment income.
Information about unemployment compensation is changing frequently. We will keep updating this article, when we get new information. Please keep checking back.