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Minnesotans among first to see federal increase to jobless benefits

In North Dakota, Job Service ND Director Bryan Klipfel said residents who are collecting unemployment should see the extra $600 sometime next week.

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Josalyn Pierce, right, and her co-worker Nicole Bailly are shown last month while working at Maxwells Restaurant & Bar in West Fargo. The restaurant was ordered closed about three weeks ago and the workers lost their jobs. Submitted photo
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SABIN, Minn. — Jeannine Schuler, who has been working as a bartender at the Crow Bar & Grill in Sabin for the past six years, received her federally mandated extra $600 in unemployment benefits Thursday, April 9.

She was being paid about $350 a week without the extra benefit after the bar and restaurant was forced to close last month. In Minnesota, regular benefits only pay about 50% of a person's wages when they lose their job.

The extra $600 each week will automatically be added to benefits as part of the federal CARES Act passed last month as a way to help workers and stimulate the economy.

"It makes up for the tips," Schuler said.

Luckily, she said, her husband is still working, which has helped her family's financial situation over the past three weeks.


When asked how she was doing as she's also in recovery from cancer, she said she's going a bit "stir crazy" at home.

"My house has never been this clean," she said.

Josalyn Pierce, a full-time bartender at Maxwells Restaurant & Bar in West Fargo, said she could sure use that extra $600 a week. After being laid off three weeks ago, she got her first check from Job Service ND last week for $244.

Of that, she put $100 down on her credit card, but is still facing her car payment and other bills.

"My credit score has already dropped 100 points, and that hasn't happened since I was in my early 20s," she said.

She hopes the extra $600 will be of help, although she's more worried about keeping people safe.

Pierce is studying to be a registered nurse; school work and online classes are helping her through while she's stuck at home. However, she paid for classes with that credit card, so she hopes she can keep up with her bills.

While North Dakotans wait for the extra weekly boost, Minnesota was one of the first in the nation to have the payments distributed, according to State Rep. Paul Marquart, D-Dilworth.


He has been monitoring state briefings in between trying to answer coronavirus-related questions from residents in his district at his home office, as well as keeping up with legislative work remotely.

Marquart said the state Department of Employment and Economic Development that runs the jobless benefit program was able to distribute the extra funds into the bank accounts or debit cards of 236,000 Minnesotans who had been verified for benefits as of the week of March 27 at a cost of $141 million.

In North Dakota, Job Service ND Director Bryan Klipfel said residents who are collecting unemployment should see the extra $600 sometime next week.

Klipfel said Thursday night that they received guidance from the federal Department of Labor on how to program the extra funds last weekend.

"We should be done programming and ready to test this weekend," he said in an email.

If all goes well with the testing, unemployed workers should see the extra $600 along with their normal weekly payment on Tuesday, he said. If there are problems, Klipfel said the payment could go out later in the week.

Since mid-March, more than 42,000 North Dakotans have applied for benefits, which usually cover only part of what a person earns. Most of the payments range from $400 to $600 a week.

The CARES Act said extra funds must be paid each week through July 31 through the state programs.


In Minnesota, unemployment claims rose 18,700 in just one day last week, bringing the total since March 16 to more than 400,000.

Marquart noted that self-employed workers and independent contractors are also eligible for unemployment under the CARES Act. Instructions from the federal Department of Labor weren't finalized as of Friday, so no payments were going out, but those residents are encouraged to fill out applications available in both Minnesota and North Dakota.

In Minnesota, self-employed applicants must apply on an assigned day during the week from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Also waiting for clarification on instructions from the feds are those who have been on unemployment for the maximum of 26 weeks but under the CARES Act can collect for another 13 weeks.

As unemployment payouts grow, Marquart said the financial health of the unemployment system was in good shape before the pandemic with the state's low jobless rate, so there were reserve funds building up.

Plus, with the influx of federal dollars to help boost jobless benefits, DEED officials said its financial health is nothing to worry about at this point.

Yet another economic boost for residents will start this coming week when one-time federal stimulus payments are expected to start arriving. For those who had their bank routing numbers on their tax forms for 2018 or 2019, the funds will automatically be direct deposited in their accounts. Social Security recipients will also see their tax-free payment automatically provided.

Payments of $1,200 will go to single people making under $75,000 and $2,400 payments will go to couples making less than $150,000, plus $500 for each child 16 or under. Those making more will see reduced payments.

Those who don't make enough to file taxes or other residents such as some veterans, low-income taxpayers or individuals with disabilities will have to go to a web portal on the IRS website to update or enter information or file a simple tax return.

Those without a bank account should go to the IRS website or contact them to make sure the IRS has a correct address on file so a paper check can be sent in the mail. Those checks won't start to be mailed out until May.

Minnesotans with questions about unemployment can go to the website www.uimn.org for more information. In North Dakota, the website is www.jobsnd.com .

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The Sports Bar in downtown Fargo is one of many leaving messages for customers. Some are homemade, while others are more official. Barry Amundson / The Forum

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