WASHINGTON – On Tuesday, U.S. Rep. Cindy Axne, D-Iowa, introduced legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives to provide tax relief for Americans who lost their jobs and utilized unemployment benefits last year – allowing millions of workers to focus their benefits on covering essentials during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and recession.
The Coronavirus Unemployment Benefits Tax Relief Act would waive federal income taxes on the first $10,200 of unemployment benefits received in 2020. The tax relief would extend to both workers who received benefits through federal unemployment programs like Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) and Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) as well as those who received traditional benefits through their state unemployment insurance fund.
“As we near one year since the beginning of this public health crisis and economic downturn, over 45,000 Iowans are still claiming regular unemployment benefits; and, across the country, tens of millions claimed these benefits at some point over the past year,” Axne said in a released statement. “We expanded these benefits through the CARES Act and other legislation because we knew an adequate and stable source of income would be vital for workers trying to make ends meet. I’m proud to introduce this legislation with Senator Durbin to ensure that these workers don’t face an unexpected tax bill, which could put them into further economic peril this April.”
The CARES Act, passed by Congress in March 2020, provided an additional $600 in unemployment benefits through the end of July. The $10,200 of tax relief provided in this bill would cover 17 weeks of that $600 per week benefit.
This calculation is based on similar tax relief that was provided in the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). ARRA included up to $2,400 in tax relief to cover unemployment benefits that were provided during the last recession.
The U.S. Department of Labor estimates that more than 18 million Americans are still receiving some form of unemployment benefits. In May, over 25 million Americans were claiming some form of unemployment benefits.
In December, Congress passed new legislation that extended federal unemployment benefits, including an extra $300 per week for all workers, through March 14, 2021.
The bill is cosponsored in the U.S. House by U.S. Reps. Bill Foster, D-Ill., Ro Khanna, D-Calif., Andy Levin, D-Mich., and Scott Peters, D-Calif.
U.S. Senator Dick Durban, D-Ill., introduced a companion bill in the U.S. Senate and it is co-sponsored by U.S. Senators Tammy Baldwin, D-Wisc, Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, Bob Menendez, D-N.J., Jack Reed, D-R.I., Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nevada, and Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass.