This article was last updated on February 23
Update following Biden Extensions to Unemployment Benefits
With Enhanced unemployment extension rules under the Biden Stimulus plan now drafted in legislation, it was good to see minimal changes to the PUA and PEUC programs, other than extending them by 24 weeks to the end of August 2021. The FPUC amount will increase from $300 to $400, for another 24 weeks as well.
All this should mean that states should have far less trouble updating their antiquated unemployment systems and programs for these changes – since no new programming should be needed! This will then hopefully translate to fewer people seeing a lapse in benefits and allow the backlog of manual claims to fully get processed.
I hope this is the case, but realistically some some states (NJ, VA, WI, NV, CA) that are having trouble with getting even the current extensions (till March 14th) under the CAA bill in place and paid, will likely have a bumpy rollout with the next round of UI extensions as well.
The Ongoing Rollout Challenges of 2021 Unemployment Extensions
With the terrible rollout of the extended weeks of UI coverage under the Pandemic Enhanced Unemployment programs, part of the COVID relief bill (CAA), many Americans across several states have missed out on getting timely benefits and supplementary payments that they should have been eligible for from the start of the year. The reason was attributed to the insufficient time many of the states had to upgrade unemployment systems/programs for the approved 2021 extensions due to the delay in signing of the COVID relief bill (Dec 27th, 2021) and implementation guidelines (Jan 1st, 2021) from the Department of Labor. The first week the benefits were meant to be available was the week ending Jan 2nd, 2021.
It’s sad the number of comments I’m seeing on various articles I have written on this topic, this recent YouTube video and across social media how desperate people are for the UI benefits they are expecting and any information on when systems will be updated to allow them to file claims and benefits to be paid. But there should be no reason for lengthy delays in the next round of extensions that everyone knows are coming under the Biden administration in the next stimulus bill.
President Biden has telegraphed loud and clear in his new administration’s economic plan that he will be proposing additional extensions to the enhanced unemployment programs. Specifically he is looking for a six-month extension to COVID related enhanced unemployment benefit programs like Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) and Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) that are currently set to expire in mid-March (with a brief phase out until April 10th, 2021). Also included in Biden’s proposal is another supplementary weekly unemployment benefit to $400, versus the current $300 FPUC payment. I have provided a summary of what this could look like in the diagram below.
Given that the Biden extensions will likely follow the same structure as the current eleven week extension, state UI agencies should have plenty of time to quickly implement the extended coverage period benefits when the new extensions likely become available (and are approved by Congress). While the final duration for the extension period and supplementary weekly amount may change as Congressional negotiations take place on the final Biden stimulus bill, the remaining aspects of the enhanced UI programs should remain the same. So the states should have minimal system updates to make around the next round of extensions in 2021 and they should start getting prepared now to implement these. In addition Congress and the Department of Labor should allocate emergency funding to allow states to get ready for the next round of enhancements.
Sadly I don’t expect this to be the case and states like Virginia, Florida and New Jersey – who have had among the worst roll-outs for prior programs – will likely continue having issues in making timely payments due to their antiquated systems and large volume of claimants. I would strongly suggest you plan ahead for potential delays and contact your local representatives to ensure they keep the pressure on their local state UI agencies to be ready the next time around.