What $1,200 A Person Means for the Economy

Derek Thompson of The Atlantic breaks down lawmakers’ proposal to provide individuals with direct cash assistance after the economy’s been suffering from the spread of COVID-19.

A hand pulls a $20 bill out of a wallet

The Coronavirus pandemic has caused businesses, schools and restaurants to shutter overnight, leaving many abruptly out of work.

(Are you facing financial hardship? See if you qualify for expanded Medicaid coverage during the crisis.)

“The better way to spend that money, some people are saying, is to ramp up unemployment insurance.” – Derek Thompson, The Atlantic

This unprecedented halt to the country’s economy has been met with equally extraordinary policy proposals. Included in Congress’s proposed stimulus package to stem the losses, is direct cash assistance to American households. The amount, duration and means of distributing money to individuals is still up for debate among lawmakers.

Listen: What direct cash assistance means for American households and the nation’s economy. 

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Derek Thompsonstaff writer at The Atlantic, says the proposal is yet to be set in stone, but as it stands now it includes relief for individuals and small-to-medium sized businesses. On the proposal, Thompson says, “It’s essentially trying to freeze the economy.” Thompson says the existing plan, yet to be approved by Congress, includes $1,200 in direct cash assistance to individuals, with an established cut-off for higher earners. 

There is some debate surrounding the proposal, with critics questioning if it’s the most effective means of relief. Thompson says he is slightly in favor of a different method of assistance.

“The better way to spend that money, some people are saying, is to ramp up unemployment insurance,” says Thompson. Either way Thompson says people will be looking for a substantial stimulus package from the government amounting in trillions of dollars. 

Applying for Unemployment

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has signed an executive order to temporarily expand eligibility for unemployment benefits, effective immediately and until Tuesday, April 14 at 11:59 PM.

Under this order, unemployment would be expanded to:

  • Workers who have an unanticipated family care responsibility, including those who have childcare responsibilities due to school closures, or those who are forced to care for loved ones who become ill. 
  • Workers who are sick, quarantined, or immunocompromised and who do not have access to paid family and medical leave or are laid off. 
  • First responders in the public health community who become ill or are quarantined due to exposure to COVID-19. 

Access to benefits for unemployed workers will also be extended:

  • Benefits will be increased from 20 to 26 weeks. 
  • The application eligibility period will be increased from 14 to 28 days 
  • The normal in-person registration and work search requirements will be suspended.  

Eligible employees should apply for unemployment benefits online at Michigan.gov/UIA  or 1-866-500-0017. A factsheet on how to apply for benefits can be found here.  


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