This article was last updated on January 6
[Updated with new $900 billion COVID stimulus bill funding extensions] The short answer to the title of this article is Yes. But there are some constraints to be aware of in the recently approved $900 billion stimulus bill unemployment benefits extension as discussed below. Just to recap the legislation passed under the new stimulus bill includes the following unemployment benefits: Eleven more weeks of benefits under the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) program and the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program. It also includes a $300 Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) per week supplemental payment to anyone receiving unemployment benefits from any other unemployment program during the coverage period.
Under the PEUC program states can now pay up to 24 weeks of additional unemployment benefits to individuals who have qualified for, but exhausted regular state unemployment compensation (UC). They must also be able to work, available for work, and actively seeking work assuming no Coronavirus/COVID-19 restrictions. An individual is deemed to have exhausted benefits (per DOL guidance) when no further UC payments can be made under any federal or state law because the individual has received all available regular UC based on employment or wages during such individual’s base period; or the individual’s right to such regular UC has been terminated by reason of the expiration.
PUA provides UI benefits to gig workers and others not traditionally eligible for them. Under the law, the end of the period of applicability for the PUA program extends to those weeks of unemployment ending on or before March 14, 2021. For individuals on PUA who have not exhausted their benefit eligibility of up to 50 weeks, the program also provides for continuing benefits for eligible individuals for weeks of unemployment through April 5, 2021.
PUA and PEUC was initially only payable up to the week of unemployment ending before December 31, 2020 (so the last week would be week ending Dec 26th or Dec 27th), but has now been extended under the recent COVID relief bill to March 14th, 2021. Existing claimants will have until the week beginning April 5th, 2021 to exhaust any remaining balances.
Will I Need to Reapply for these benefits or are they automatically applied?
This will depend on state by state basis, but those who have an active claim or have exhausted their benefits will be eligible for the enhanced unemployment benefits discussed above. State UI agencies are responsible for reaching out but given the massive spike in claims this is likely to be a slow process. Some states are automatically extending benefits (even without ongoing certification) for those whose claims have a remaining balance or claims that have recently expired due to delays in passing the stimulus legislation. For those who have not claimed UI or had a claim expire several months ago, then you will likely have to file a new claim or reactivate your existing claim (will vary on a state by state basis). You can see this article for specific situations as to whether a claimant needs to take action or not to get the extended benefits. The table below shows key dates for the extended programs.
States have now also received detailed federal guidance (via the Department of Labor) on the implementation of the stimulus-law extensions for existing UI beneficiaries. Most states like New York, Florida and California have told people who are already collecting unemployment benefits and qualify for the PEUC or PUA extension that they don’t need to reapply to receive the additional $300 FPUC payment.
Key Dates for PEUC, PUA and FPUC Programs
|Enhanced Unemployment Program||Max Weeks Available in Program||Program Effective Start Date (limited to maximum weeks available under program)||Program End Date (no new claims after this)||Payment End Date for Remaining Weeks|
|PUA Claims filed on or before Dec 27, 2020 (e.g. Active Claimant, getting UI benefits)||50 (39 + 11)||If active agreement in place, January 27, 2020||March 14, 2021||April 10, 2021|
|PUA Claims filed after Dec 27, 2020 (e.g. New Claimants)||14 (3 + 11)||If agreement in place, December 1,2020 (claim effective December 6, 2020)||March 14, 2021||April 10, 2021|
|PEUC||24 (13 + 11)||Date of agreement - effective March 28, 2020||March 14, 2021||April 10, 2021|
|$300 FPUC||11||December 27th, 2020||March 14, 2021||N/A|
|$100 Mixed Earner Payment (Optional)||11||December 27th, 2020||March 14, 2021||N/A|
Notes to table:
1. Table does not include extended state benefits which could mean additional weeks of PUA in certain states (e.g California which includes up to 57 weeks)
2. You can only get PUA if you don't qualify for regular UI or PEUC, so those weeks need to be excluded from maximum weeks.
3. New Claimants or those who had exhausted benefits have to apply and get their claim approved for back dating to December 1st. Otherwise they only get the new 11 week maximum under the extension funding from December 27th, 2020
Note – Under current rules if you stop certifying for continued unemployment benefits, even for one week, your Unemployment Insurance (UI) claim becomes inactive. You must reopen your claim to request benefit payments. You can generally reopen your claim if it was filed within the last 52 weeks. If your benefit year has ended, you must file a new claim.
Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) and Extended State Benefits
Independent contractors, freelancers and gig workers who wouldn’t have qualified for claims before will be able to get the same UI benefits as those who qualify for the PEUC program. This act has loosened rules and eligibility considerably and includes:
- Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) – Provides at least 50 weeks of benefits for freelance, gig and contract workers who would normally NOT have been eligible for state unemployment programs. Workers who get PUA are not concurrently eligible for PEUC or Extended State Unemployment benefits. Unemployment claims for PUA will be backdated and paid retroactively to the first week during the PUA period in which an employee was unemployed, partially unemployed, or unable and unavailable to work due to COVID-19
- Extended State Unemployment Benefits (EB)— Provides an additional 13 additional weeks of benefits when a state is experiencing high unemployment. Some states have also enacted a voluntary program to pay up to 7 additional weeks (for a total of 20 weeks maximum) during periods of extremely high unemployment. Note that extended state benefits are only available after people have collected all regular Unemployment Insurance benefits as well as any PEUC benefits they were eligible for. But if the unemployment rates drops below high unemployment thresholds in a state, the EB benefit coverage weeks may drop or cease. See the current levels of EB benefits available by state.
Many applicants with exhausted claims are getting rejected when applying for additional UIC. In this situation state agencies are asking claimants to be patient and re-apply when their systems are updated. States are also obligated to reach out to applicants eligible under the new programs, but per the information above they are so far backlogged that this may take several weeks. For those already on unemployment benefits but close to exhausting their claim period, you will just have to wait and hope your state updates is systems to automatically extend your unemployment benefit coverage.