Replacing the $600 FPUC Unemployment Benefit with a Back-to-Work Bonus Payment


This article was last updated on June 16

With millions of Americans still unemployed and getting enhanced unemployment benefits, there’s been a lot of debate on whether to extend the current federally funded extra unemployment benefits ($600 FPUC, 13 week to 39 week PUA/PEUC) or as some would prefer provide a back-to-work bonus instead to encourage people to start looking for work. The main reason for this is that the current $600 FPUC payment on top of existing state UI benefits in many cases provides more income than what employees would could get by returning to work. Further several states have waived the need to be available for work to get UI benefits due to the COVID crisis and associated unemployment provisions.

Many who support extending current and enhanced unemployment benefits argue that back-to-work bonus’ won’t help many people because jobs are simply not available. And by removing these benefits many unemployed Americans would go back to living below the poverty line and be unable to pay bills rent and meet basic living needs. This would subsequently have a detrimental impact to state and local economies. Those who argue against extending enhanced unemployment benefits and instead prefer a back-to-work bonus say that a true recovery can never really start unless people are encouraged to go back to work and not rely on state or federally funded subsidies.

Not surprisingly the debate is divided along political party lines. The Trump administration and Congressional Republicans, according to economic advisor Larry Kudlow, don’t want to extend the $600-a-week FPUC supplementary UI benefit past its current expiry at the end of July 2020. They support a temporary, federally funded, cash bonus to those who find work. Democrats on the other hand want to extend the $600-a-week payments until 2021 or tie any reduction in benefits to the prevailing unemployment rate.

While no specific back to work bonus proposals are in Congress for review some options being floated include:

  • Replace the $600 weekly UI checks with temporary payments of $450 a week plus their regular wages for those who return to work. The temporary payments would last for 2 to 4 weeks.
  • Workers who accept a job offer keep two weeks’ worth of $600 enhanced unemployment benefits. Normally, if someone finds work, they would lose their unemployment benefits, so this carrot essentially provides a $1200 bonus.

Some states are already forging ahead with programs to encourage workers back to work. Idaho has already instituted a scheme to pay jobless residents a one time $1,500 payment to lure them back to work and off unemployment benefits. The state is directing $100 million from the $1.25 billion it received in federal CARES program that could benefit up to 70,000 residents.

So while debates will rage at the federal level on extending enhanced UI benefits versus promoting return-to-work programs, my bet is many states struggling with managing and paying unemployment claims (e.g. Florida, Ohio, Georgia) will start redirecting federal funds to encourage workers to return to work. The only question is, will they have jobs to go back to?

30 thoughts on “Replacing the $600 FPUC Unemployment Benefit with a Back-to-Work Bonus Payment

  1. I work in the healthcare and have been offered a 3 day a week temporary job for 7 weeks what happens after that can I go back on unemployment if I can’t find a job? I am very scared to even for ro work because I do none grants sinus lifts all the nasty work wear there is a lot of blood involved very high risk job
    Or should I just stay home and continue collecting unemployment benefits in case when my time is up I will be back living b4 the covid . I was put on furlough in March ,and was told I no longer have the job due to covid there is not enough work for part time or full time employees to return.

  2. What about those of us that are in the health care profession but are furloughed and aren’t scheduled to work until the end of August, and now that the Myrtle Beach, South Carolina area is spiking there is talk about stopping non-essential surgeries which will close down the hospital outbuildings that could result in an extension to the current furlough. In the medical field the bread and butter is not made in the hospital rooms anymore it is the out patient procedures when those have to close the money for payroll isn’t there. HOW CAN YOU TAKE AWAY THE $600.00 BOOST AND OFFER A BACK TO WORK BONUS WHEN OUR JOBS AREN’T AVAILABLE TO RETURN TO YET????

  3. The Congressional Budget Office recently found that extending that $600 a week benefit until Jan. 31, 2021, would mean that “roughly five of every six recipients would receive benefits that exceeded the weekly amounts they could expect to earn from work during those six months.”

    1. So? Trump & The GOP have given almost $600 Billion in free cash to The richest of the rich & Corporations on top of the Wall Street ppl getting PPP loans. And now they want another $80 billion tax cut for the rich. But, $600 to poor Americans I guess is a bridge to far since we are the modern day slaves ever since The GOP elimination of the Middle Class. This argument for a lack of a better term is ‘rich’.

  4. O K, Heres what you do. You can not keep giving an extra 600.00 a week because yes it is an incentive to not work. You can’t do the back to work bonus because most ppl will not be able to find a job just now. Laura has an excellent point about those ppl who have been working without any help. Give everyone $300.00 a week, everyone, unemployed, working, Everyone. This is still an incentive to work and get wages plus $300.00. It is help for those already working, and It is help for the unemployed, and 300.00 is not going to give too many ppl more than they get working. (A modest proposal)

    1. you obviously have never lived in poverty to understand the concept of it all 300 dollars a week to people who are unable to find a job at the current time will lose there homes electric will be turned off and they will end up homeless god forbid if they have children to take care of also. how about you stop accepting your check you’ve still been recieving through this pandemic and try to live off of 300 dollars a month and then come back and tell me how much of a great idea it was

      1. You are 100% right Angie! People who say that the UI benefits is a disincentive are the same people who wear $2000 suits and are surrounded by co-workers who earn $150K a year. They are just out of touch with the middle class.

        1. Yes they are ignorant and they need to educate themselves 600 a month is still hard to live off of with all the prices for everything going up. Government needs to do better for the people and keep politics out of it.

        2. What middle class? This is just the elite once again using bogus hyperbole to try and force the working class to remain in poverty and at some point be able to go back to work so they can ride us like the slaves we are and enrich themselves. If they cut everything I refuse to work in this pandemic until I see their asses ready to go into the front line for 65 hours a week for $9.00 hr while risking their lives. Hypocrisy of our nation & economy is worse than ever. We need a living wage period. They bail out Wall Street and giant corporations with trillions of our taxes but, balk at using our own taxes to invest in us. Shameful. Trump, GOP, & establishment Dems all gotta go.

      2. Angie, the proposal by Richard is for $300/WEEK, not $300/month, in case that wasn’t a typo on your part. :)

      1. I started recieving the 600 a week in March when my employer had to shut our store down. I went back to work when my state started reopening even though I felt it was unsafe and they was pushing to open to soon. I was right because i ended up contracting the virus at work and now cant work for 14 days or longer. Now there are no extra benifits and my regular unemployment benifit after tax is 111.24. How am i suppose to pay my rent that is due today or put food on the table for my children to eat. Its crap that against my better judgment i went back to work part time might i add because we havnt opened all shifts and now I cant work at all or paymy bills ren or buy groceries but they cant move this bill along becase its not hurting them in any way. Im sure their bills are paid and are eating like kings while I am struggling worried about being able to provide for my family which four of them are children undr 12 years old

  5. Does anybody know if you already are on first extension, can you get a second extension in nj? Im saying this even if the 600 program is not extendeded? In other words, how many extensions of ui can you get?

  6. PEOPLE DONT NEED AN INCENTIVE TO GO BACK TO WORK!!! Just because a few bums wanna stay on unemployment it doesnt mean we all do. There is more hard working Americans than their is lazy ones.

    I find it stupid that people complain when their fellow american is finally getting some actual benefits from the goverment that takes our tax money.

    Why dont you guys huff and puff about those corrupt corporate elected officals in goverment? This country is run by corporations and their self interest.

    1. why would someone want to go back to work and work there ass off for much less money. When they can get twice the amount of money and not work there ass off. You don’t have to be lazy to see the obvious choice would be to not go back to work at least until the end of July. I think the going back to work bonus is a great idea, or at least let the person who goes back to work continue receiving UI benefits while they work at least until the end of July. Its about time they help us Americans.

      1. Because it’s going to run out at some point anyway. And where do you work? Anywhere you work you are afraid of catching the virus, imagine getting gelled out by a boss and getting a face full of spit, or sitting next to people who have colds or maybe corona,and you worrying about it.It’s not suddenly back to the way it was, so it’s going to take time before you see full work forces, companies won’t even have room to make it safe for all workers. if they want people to go back and forget all about the corona virus, they need to make the back to work bonus better or last !onger, cause many are not going back for a while. I’m in travel, God knows when That’s coming back.

    2. its because the people that dont want to go back to work are democrats they like having money handed to them because they are lazy why not let the government take care of them if they are willing to thats how its being looked at and that exactly what the left wants democrats want the people to depend on the government for everything and if we keep it up thats exactly how its going to be

      1. You apparently do ZERO research, the overwhelming amount of money that goes into the General Fund (income tax) comes from California and New York, you’re welcome. Per capita income tax paid in order of most to least goes DC, CT, MA, NY, NJ, WA, CA, NH, MD, WY (the last and least contributor being a fully Republican state). So far as GDP contribution, have a look yourself. Democrat states are literally paying for your stimulus and the farm bill, though Dem controlled states utilize a small percent of the farm bill.
        States that are most dependent on Fed money.

        Notice any trends?

      2. When is the last time you heard the president or any top republican mention: social security, senior care, mental health care, help people with disabilities, and now they wont talk about the covid-19 spike. Maybe this might effect someone you care about, because these subjects are something we should all care about.

  7. Back to Work Bonus Payment is a good idea. And I mean IDEA. It has to be brought into the conversation and strongly considered and expanded in detail.

    Let’s face it. The $600 enhanced UI was a panic move that wasn’t well thought out. I’m sure I will miss something (which is why ideas need to be discussed openly), but at least the following groups need to be taken into account:

    1. The unemployed that actually don’t have a job to go back to. At least not the same job they had December 2019. They may have to find a new job. Even a new career path. And they might get less than 40 hours a week.

    2. The unemployed that can’t go back. The high risk. Or even those with a high risk person(s) in their immediate household

    3. The intended target: Those that could go back to work, but just don’t want to. Either because they are “lazy” or because they will actually make far less than December 2019, and worse, far less than unemployment benefits. Nobody (that isn’t COVID recovered) is 100% risk free from major health consequences. So it is hard to accept going back to something that should require hazard pay, not a hazard cut

    4. All the employed that actually worked through the hazard the whole time without any serious hazard pay. Especially the Essential Worker / Min. Wage pay like grocery store and restaurant workers. They may have less actual hazard than real frontline essential workers, but they also were making pathetic pay. That really needs to be addressed.

    And whatever is decided, it should probably be handled on the federal level as we can see how badly it broke down on the state level.

    None of this will happen though as politics stopped being about bringing the best ideas together a long time ago.

  8. Back to work bonus !! Are you kidding me ???
    What about all of us who were considered essential workers? I received no hazard pay and brought home 350.00 week..
    If I collected unemployment my weekly check would have been 843.00 …
    This is egregious to say the least…
    This is some sick joke and the anger I feel that they are probably going to do this bonus or extend unemployment ..
    What I continually hear is that many say “I’m afraid to go back to work”
    Are you kidding me???
    Try working at the height of it back in March , April the anxiety felt by all of us who showed up for less than half the pay you received sitting home nice and safe ..
    Complete joke this whole thing is ..

    1. i agree with you. i have gone to work everyday being an essential worker, and have gotten nothing. but everyone i know is collecting and sitting high on their horse. What about taking care of the essential workers.

  9. I live and work in Illinois. My gross weekly pay is 1610.00. I was furloughed the day after Memorial day so when I did my certification I had to say I was paid the holiday 322.00 gross income. Illinois max is 484.00 and the additional weekly 600.00. They said my deductions are greater than weekly benefit so nothing paid for that week. Can you help me with understand this?

    1. What they are saying is that if the earnings you had are greater than the standard benefit (not including the extra $600) to which you are entitled, you don’t get the standard benefit. Since you don’t get any of the standard benefit for that certification period, you are not entitled to the extra $600.

      1. So even though my gross was only 322.00 and max is 484.00 I am not entitled to anything?

        1. If the benefit amount that YOU are allowed is $322.00 or less, you would not receive anything(at least for that week if I am reading this correctly). If the benefit amount YOU are allowed to receive is MORE than $322.00, then they SHOULD deduct the amount you grossed from the benefit amount you are allowed, plus the $600.00. (ex: Benefit amt you are allowed: $400.00, Gross amount you worked: $322.00, you should receive $78.00 + $600.00.)

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