900,000 people filed for unemployment the week before Biden took office. Here is how the administration is planning to help jobless Americans.

900,000 people filed for unemployment the week before Biden took office. Here is how the administration is planning to help jobless Americans.
  • President Joe Biden inherited an ailing labor market, with 900,000 Americans filing unemployment claims in the week before he was sworn in.
  • Biden plans to address unemployment in the country through a series of measures, including weekly unemployment benefits, benefit extensions, and short-time compensation programs.
  • The cooperation of Congress remains a factor to ensure Americans can receive assistance as soon as possible.

President Joe Biden inherited an ailing labor market, with 900,000 people filing unemployment claims the week before he took office. But the new president has plans to address the issue and provide relief for jobless Americans.

Before COVID-19 hit, unemployment claims were touching highs of around 695,000, but have consistently soared above that figure since March. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the current unemployment rate is at 6.7%, and although that rate has held steady for the past month, the job market has stalled, with 140,000 jobs cut in December. In his stimulus proposal, Biden pushed for unemployment aid to address the staggering job losses during the pandemic, Insider previously reported.

Here's how Biden plans to aid unemployed Americans:

$400 weekly unemployment benefits

Current weekly unemployment benefits stand at $300, and Biden is pushing to increase that payment to $400 each week for unemployed workers.


"This gets money quickly into the pockets of millions of Americans who will spend it immediately on food, rent, and other basic needs," Biden said in a speech last Thursday.

According to the Dept. of Labor, the $400 benefit would replace 86% of workers' pre-layoff wages. This benefit would be available through the end of September.

Extension of unemployment benefits

Biden's stimulus plan also called for a six-month extension of unemployment benefits, providing benefits through the end of September rather than ending in March. With the course of the pandemic reliant on a number of factors, such as vaccine distribution, the extension will continue to provide relief for workers who will require financial support during the months to come.

″[The extension] means 18 million Americans currently on unemployment benefits while they look for work can count on these checks continuing to be there," Biden said during his speech last Thursday.


Workers can apply for the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance and Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation through the end of September, as well.

Automatic benefit adjustments

A common grievance that some lawmakers, and the public, have expressed is having to constantly extend or renew benefits in Congress leads to delays in getting money into the pockets of Americans. Biden proposes working with Congress on automatic adjustments to the length and amount of unemployment benefits workers receive based on economic conditions.

Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon said in a statement in April that COVID-19 relief needs to make sure unemployment benefits support workers in the long-term.

"That means triggering extensions of benefits based on specific rates of unemployment instead of arbitrary timelines, bringing gig workers and others into the system permanently, and increasing traditional unemployment benefits to an appropriate level," Wyden said.


Automatic adjustments are not explicitly included in Biden's stimulus proposal, but he has expressed interest in working with Congress on the matter.

Reforming short-time compensation programs

Short-time compensation keeps workers employed at reduced hours, with the federal government making up for the difference in wages. According to Biden's website, this approach is "well suited to the current moment, when we can expect a more gradual recovery in certain sectors, with some businesses operating a partial capacity for an extended period."

Short-time compensation will be reformed by:

  • Securing participation from all 50 states, including Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands
  • Creating a tax credit for employers' extra health care costs
  • Establishing 100% federal financing