The short answer to the title of this article is Yes. Those who are eligible for Unemployment Insurance Compensation (UIC) and have exhausted current claims will be eligible for the federally funded 13 week unemployment benefits extension under the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) AND retroactive supplementary payments like the $600 p/week extra FPUC payment and $300 LWA payment. State unemployment agencies will be responsible for administering these benefits, in addition to the existing unemployment benefit claims.
Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC)
Just to recap, under the PEUC program approved under the CARES act, states can pay up to 13 weeks of additional unemployment benefits to individuals who have 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.
The first week for which PEUC may be paid is the week ending April 4, 2020 (or April 5th for states where the unemployment week ends on April 5th). PEUC is not payable for any week of unemployment ending after December 31, 2020 (so the last week would be week ending Dec 26th or Dec 27th)
Retroactive and Backdated Payments
Will I Need to Reapply for these benefits?
This will depend on state by state basis, but those who have exhausted their benefits will be eligible for the enhanced CARES act 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 recently expired. If you have not gotten notice from your state UI agency and your claim is almost or has recently expired then I suggest you contact them and/or file a new claim. I strongly recommend doing this online, given many offices unemployment offices have limited staffing and call volumes are extraordinarily high.
States have now received detailed federal guidance (via the Department of Labor) on the implementation of the stimulus-law changes 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 extension that they don’t need to reapply to receive the additional $600 FPUC payment.
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.
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. Further part time workers who get or who are eligible for UIC will also be entitled to the full $600 weekly payment until the end of July 2020.
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 through the new pandemic unemployment assistance program established by the CARES act. This act has loosened rules and eligibility considerably and includes:
- Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) – Provides 39 to 46 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.
Delays in Roll out of 13 weeks of Additional Benefits
While several states have rolled out the extra $600 supplementary payment, many are still way behind in updating their systems to reflect the extra 13 weeks of standard unemployment insurance now available. This has a double impact for those who have exhausted their benefits under current state administered UI programs. One is means that don’t get the current benefits available in their state because they cannot reopen or file a new claim; and secondly it means they won’t get the extra $600 weekly payment available till the end of July 2020.
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.
This article was updated on November 3