This article was last updated on December 26
[December 27th 2020 Update] Congress had passed an overall appropriations bill with 2020 COVID Stimulus provisions that included unemployment benefit extensions and an additional $300 weekly supplementary payment. The new funding measures would have extended PUA and PEUC programs by another 11 weeks allowing those with existing balances to rollover remaining weeks and additional weeks for those who have exhausted their UI benefit claims.
However, President Trump has rejected the overall COVID relief bill (see video below) and over 15 million Americans relying on these extensions are now caught in limbo as the current PUA and PEUC programs expired this weekend. At this point we will need to see how Congress handles the President’s rejections and if they can pass an adjusted bill or one that overrides the President’s veto. I will update as more information comes to hand, but expect that the delays due to Trump will mean these benefits don’t get paid till January 2021. You should however keep certifying (where possible) to ensure that you are then caught up when retroactive payments are made.
[September 2020 update] All states have implemented the federally funded PUA, PEUC and FPUC programs to supplement their state unemployment programs. While the roll-out has been less than stellar and many at still struggling to even get more than one UIC payment, millions of jobless American are relying on the supplementary unemployment benefits and broader coverage to make ends meet. One in particular is the $600 FPUC program, which is set to expire at the end of July 2020. There have been several ideas to extend the program, but Congress is mired in party line political debates and needs to act much faster to extend the $600 payment before it expires or provide an alternative offering that supports those who have no jobs due to a resurgence of COVID while also encouraging people to go back-to-work.
I’ll post updates as they come through, but the good news is the retroactive/back-payments are being made for those eligible for payments in weeks they were unemployed and that thanks to the PUA program, existing state UI benefits have been made available to the end of the year. Also for those still dealing with issues around getting their unemployment checks, here are some alternative ways to get in contact with your local state UI agency.
[Updated with the final CARES act provisions] Under the recently enacted $2 trillion Coronavirus stimulus bill (CARES act) unemployment insurance coverage will be extended and supplemented as follows:
- Under an existing provision known as the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) state-level unemployment insurance will be extended by an additional 13 weeks thanks to federal funding under the CARE stimulus bill. So state unemployment maximum benefits that normally last 26 weeks for example, would now last up-to 39 weeks. The extended benefits will last through Dec. 31, 2020 and also allow those who have exhausted their regular state benefits to get an additional 13 weeks of benefits.
- Under Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) provisions an additional payment of $600 per week on top of the current and extended regular state UI benefits will be provided through to July 31, 2020.
- Under the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) provision eligibility rules for claiming unemployment benefits and compensation have also been expanded to cover more workers, including contractors, freelance/“gig” workers and those who are self-employed. You will have to first apply for regular state UI, and be ineligible or denied for that, before being eligible for the PUA program. This will also cover jobless Americans who qualify for at least 39 weeks.
The extra $600 FPUC funded boost in particular is nearly double the current UI maximum payment in many states (see state level maximums) so has created some controversy whereby some lower income workers may get more via unemployment than through their normal wages.
When will the $600 Unemployment Benefit Payment Start?
The $600 benefit payment is now being paid by all states and will generally be paid with your standard state unemployment benefit. You can see the table below for payment dates by states, including links to more information. Note that if you have already exhausted your current state UI benefits, you will still be eligible for this additional/extra temporary benefit boost as it is federally funded under the CARES stimulus bill.
Most state unemployment agencies and labor departments have implemented the enhanced unemployment provisions under guidance from the Federal Department of Labor (DOL). However antiquated state unemployment filing systems and websites have not been easy to update in such a short duration, meaning that claimants have faced long wait times and failures in being able to file a claim. If you already receive UI benefits you will automatically be added to the new stimulus programs if eligible and receive these payments as you currently do. Others or newly unemployed will need to (re-)apply for the UI payments.
Self-employed, independent contractors and nonprofit employees, or those that are otherwise ineligible for state UI benefits or those who have exhausted state and federal benefits may be eligible for enhanced benefits under the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program. Individuals who have the ability to telework and receive pay or individuals who are receiving paid sick leave or other paid leave benefits will not qualify for the PUA benefits.
Will I get the full $600? The $600 is added to whatever amount you are currently getting, whether it’s the minimum or the maximum. So for example even if you are only getting $50 a week in unemployment benefits today you will still get the full $600 through the next four months which is mandated in the CARES bill. This means those only getting partial UIC benefits (at least $1) like part time workers earning below the maximum weekly benefit amount for their state will be eligible for this supplemental payment till July 31st 2020.
Also note that the $600 is paid retroactively. Payments are effective starting with the week ending 4/5/20. So, if it takes your state UI agency until mid-April to actually start the payments, they will be retroactive back to 4/5/20. The $600 only applies to those who are receiving unemployment benefits. If your state said that you don’t qualify for UI, then you do not get the $600 either. The bill also waived the 7 day waiting period for new claims. So you can file as soon as you get laid off or lose income as a self employed person.
(Click State For Details)
|Maximum PUA Amount||PUA State Contact Number|
|District of Columbia||$444|
|New Jersey||$713||North Jersey: 201-601-4100|
Central Jersey: 732-761-2020
Southern Jersey: 856-507-2340
1-833-324-0366 (to certify)
[April 2020 update] With over 2.25 unemployment claims filed in the last week along, America is facing not only a health crisis, but a Jobs one as well.
The recently passed Families First Cronavirus Response Act has resulted in several economic stimulus measures, once of which is Enhanced unemployment benefits. The bill provides $1 billion in 2020 for emergency grants to states for activities related to processing and paying unemployment insurance (UI) benefits.
$500 million of the additional funding would be used to provide immediate additional funding to all states for staffing, technology, systems, and other administrative costs, so long as they met basic requirements about ensuring access to earned benefits for eligible workers.
How unemployment insurance works and how to qualify
It mainly depends on where you live because states administer the Unemployment insurance program. But often get help, per the bill discussed above, from the federal government to bolster the state’s UI program and availability of benefits.
Eligibility and benefits are generally calculated as a percentage of your income over the past year, up to a certain maximum. The benefits or UI payment is between 14 and 26 weeks, but can be extended by supporting federal funds.
States would be required to report on the share of eligible individuals who received UI benefits and the state’s efforts to ensure access within one year of receiving the funding. The funding would be distributed in the same proportions as regular UI administrative funding provided through annual appropriations.
The remaining $500 million would be reserved for emergency grants to states which experienced at least a 10 percent increase in unemployment. Those states would be eligible to receive an additional grant, in the same amount as the initial grant, to assist with costs related to the unemployment spike, and would also be required to take steps to temporarily ease eligibility requirements that might be limiting access to UI during the COVID-19 outbreak, like work search requirements, required waiting periods, and requirements to increase employer UI taxes if they have high layoff rates.