New $300 weekly federal unemployment benefits start to reach Americans in need

The new congressional relief deal provides a $300 weekly federal enhancement in benefits through March 14. And it extends by 11 weeks the two pandemic programs that were created in the $2 trillion CARES Act in March and were set to expire at the end of 2020.

The Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program expanded jobless benefits to gig workers, freelancers, independent contractors, the self-employed and certain people affected by the coronavirus. The Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation program provided an extra 13 weeks of payments to those who exhaust their regular state benefits.

Both programs will close to new applicants on March 14, but continue through April 5 for existing claimants who have not yet reached the maximum number of weeks.