New federal stimulus package is changing the game for those seeking unemployment benefits

MILWAUKEE -- Do you qualify for unemployment benefits? How much? When will you actually get your check? The new federal stimulus package is changing the system.

You probably do not have time to read all 335 pages of the CARES Act -- or translate the legalese describing which unemployment benefits apply to your family. So the FOX6 Investigators did it for you -- with some help. Christopher Schuele, a labor and employment attorney from Reinhard Boerner Van Deuren, said the new law changes unemployment benefits in three main ways -- who can get them, how much money you will get, and how long the checks will keep coming.

Christopher Schuele

"As a general rule, someone who has either lost their job and their pay entirely and individuals who have lost a certain portion of their income would qualify for benefits," Schuele said. That is if you were an employee. Independent contractors, the self-employed, and people who have exhausted their benefits did not qualify. Now, they do -- and people receiving those benefits can get an additional $600 per week. Wisconsin's maximum weekly benefit was $370.

"This system's been modeled after the disaster unemployment assistance that we've seen issued after, for example, hurricanes in the Carolinas, or Texas recently," Schuele said. "Effectively what we have here is the equivalent of a hurricane happening every day for a period of weeks, if not months, all over the country." Wisconsin unemployment typically covers 26 weeks. The law extends that by an additional 13.

So that takes care of the big changes. But there is a catch. "On a state-by-state basis, they're overwhelmed. They weren't designed, built, or staffed to deal with anything even remotely close to this.," Schuele said.

People already have trouble filing unemployment claims in Wisconsin and the rest of the country. If the new law affects you, you will need to wait to get your money until the state and the feds dot some Is and cross some Ts. "If there is going to be a waiting period for these new influxes of cash to find their way into an average American's pocketbook. But I do think it's coming, and help is on the way." Schuele said. That help cannot get here soon enough. FOX6 News asked the Department of Workforce Development how long people in Wisconsin will need to wait before they can get these expanded benefits. We are waiting for a response. The provision that allows for an additional $600 in weekly unemployment benefits is set to expire on July 31, 2020. The expansion that allows more people to apply for benefits is set to expire at the end of the year.