With over 20 million Americans on some type of unemployment and the number of workers unemployed for more than six months growing faster than ever before, there is a palpable and justified sense of direct and indirect concern (or some would say fear) when federal funding for enhanced unemployment benefit programs runs out at the end of 2020.
“I’ve never needed government support, but my employer closed in April and then (permanently) again in October and I have been unable to get a steady job since then and things look bleak going into the holiday season. I am about to exhaust my remaining benefits and I don’t know how I will pay my bills and keep the heat on this winter,” said Peter Sherwin who worked as a manager at a local bar.
Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) and Emergency Unemployment (PEUC) Programs
The two largest programs that are running out at the end of 2020 and affect the most people will be the PEUC and PUA programs. The Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) was created under the CARES act and allowed many workers formerly on W-2 paying jobs to get an extended 13 weeks of unemployment above and beyond their state unemployment programs.
The Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program on the other hand provided unemployment benefits to workers who were not covered by existing state unemployment programs. This included contract, freelance/gig workers and the self-employed (“1099” workers).
Both these programs provided and expanded unemployment benefits to between 39 and 46 weeks (depending on state) for many eligible workers. Further it also allowed them to access valuable weekly supplementary UI benefits under the $600 FPUC and $300 LWA programs, which have now also expired.
Both programs expire at the end of the year, meaning an end to the federally funded safety net for the millions of workers who are getting current and retroactive benefits under these programs. So many longer term unemployment Americans will end up with ZERO unemployment benefits come January 1st 2021. This is despite some states providing extended state unemployment benefits, triggered due to high state unemployment rates. And with hopes of Congress passing a new stimulus program with extended unemployment benefits fading due to the election fallout, things look bleak.
If I still have weeks of PUA benefits, does it mean that come the end of December my PUA benefit’s will end?
Unfortunately yes. The program’s federal funding ends at the end of the year. So even if you have a balance or weeks of benefits left after year end, you won’t be getting these payments in 2021 unless Congress extends unemployment benefits.
This article was updated on November 22