This article was last updated on March 6
Democrats have finalized passage of Biden’s $1.9 trillion stimulus package which reflects many of the unemployment extensions he campaigned on. I have discussed many of these in some recent articles and you can see a summary of the extended employment programs and coverage periods in the graphic below. Overall coverage for the federally funded pandemic unemployment programs has been extended from when the current CAA COVID relief bill ends on March 14th, 2021 to September 6th, 2021 (excluding any phase-out periods). Key enhanced unemployment provision extensions include:
Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA)
The PUA program, designed for freelancers, gig workers and independent contractors or those that generally don’t qualify for regular state unemployment, has been extended by another 25 weeks. This brings the total number of weeks in the program to 75. Note however, any payments under the Biden stimulus package can only be backdated or retroactively paid to the “enactment month” of the stimulus package which would be the first week in March.
Note that the minimum PUA payment is still 50% of a states average weekly benefit amount and limited to the state’s maximum weekly benefit amount (WBA).
Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) – $300 for 25 weeks
The new stimulus bill initially had language to increase the weekly supplementary/extra unemployment amount to $400 (from the current $300). However to appease more moderate Democrats and keep the incentive to return to work (for higher wages) the amount was left the same as the $300 FPUC payment approved under the CAA COVID Relief bill. Payments for the $300 weekly payment will continue until early September for a total of 25 weeks and eligible claimants – those getting at least $1 from state and federal unemployment programs – can get a maximum of $7,500 if they qualify for all weeks covered in this new extension.
Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC)
The PEUC program, which extends coverage for those who have exhausted regular and extended state unemployment, has also been extended for another 25 weeks, bringing the total amount of PEUC coverage to 49 weeks.
There was an explicit clause to state that claimants receiving extended state unemployment benefits (as some states are providing due to high unemployment rates) shall not be eligible to receive PEUC until they have exhausted all rights to such extended benefits. So to get PEUC, you will first have to use up regular state unemployment and extended state benefits.
You can see an earlier update on the above in this recent YouTube video. The final legislation to enact the above provisions still needs to work its way through Congress to get the required votes for passage, since there are a lot of items other than unemployment extensions up for discussion. Once approved and signed into law by the president, the Department of Labor (DOL) will then issue formal guidelines for state UI agencies to implement the new program extensions. All this will take some time (2 to 4 weeks), and hence the push by Congress to get this bill approved as soon as possible. I’ll track progress and post updates as they come to hand and you can subscribe to get the latest information.