Rainier Harris

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Congresswoman Nydia M. Velazquez, whose district encompasses Bushwick, has introduced legislation in the House of Representatives that would make the $600 weekly benefit provided in the CARES Act tax free. The CARES Act or the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, was the largest-ever economic stimulus package in U.S. history and addressed the unprecedented economic ramifications of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Over the past six weeks, over 30 million Americans have filed for unemployment benefits. In New York State, the hardest hit state in the country, over 1.6 million people have filed initial unemployment claims since early March. At the time of this writing, New York State has almost 320,000 confirmed cases and over 19,000 deaths. New York City alone, has over 177,000 confirmed cases and has almost 14,000 confirmed deaths. 

The Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) benefit provides $600 a week for those eligible for state or federal unemployment compensation benefits and Velazquez’ bill, the Excluding Pandemic Unemployment Compensation from Income Act, would not count the $600 payments as taxable income. “With millions of workers suffering from the most severe economic downswing since the Great Depression, we shouldn’t be imposing an additional tax burden on families struggling to get by,” Velázquez said in the press release. The legislation she introduced is meant to also ensure families will not have an “additional tax burden” if they eventually return to work. 

The bill would also guarantee that those receiving the benefit would not be inadvertently ineligible for other federal programs such as SNAP, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or TANF, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families. The $600 weekly given by the FPUC does not affect eligibility for programs such as Medicaid. The bill has been cosponsored by 26 other congress members and is still in the beginning stages of the legislative process.

Cover Photo by Alec Meeker

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