This article was last updated on December 28
[Latest Update] With passage of the new $900 billion COVID relief stimulus bill, several enhanced unemployment programs like the PUA, PEUC and FPUC have been extended into 2021. However due to the delays in getting the final bill approved it is likely that claimants will experience lapses with current PUA and PEUC payments (which expired on December 26th under the previous round of funding under the CARES act) or have to wait 2 to 3 weeks to get the new $300 FPUC weekly supplementary payment.
While there will be uncertainty for millions of Americans who may face a lapse in benefits or delays in payments, any pending amounts will be paid retroactively and given PUA and FPUC were existing programs there likely won’t be a need to reapply for these programs. You will need to continue to certify for eligible weeks. More to come as the Department of Labor (DOL) rolls out formal guidance and states update their systems for the new program extensions and payments.
There have been additional Fraud prevention measures introduced as part of the new stimulus bill that may impact some people and cause delays if claimants do not follow guidelines or respond to state UI agencies if additional information is requested. This includes new PUA applicants having to submit documentation to verify their employment (contract or self) within 21 days of applying of benefits. Existing applicants will have 90 days to provide any pending or requested documentation. If the documents are not satisfactory or provided, benefit payments could be delayed of denied.
[Sep 2020 update] There are several enhanced unemployment benefit programs currently available under the CARES COVID stimulus program. However many of these have different rules and have been implemented slightly differently by the various states that process and pay unemployment benefits. The most reported and probably the most significant enhanced UI benefit program is the $600 FPUC program that expired at the end of July. While Congress is still debating funding for an extension, President Trump used an executive order to create the Lost Wages Assistance (LWA) program to provide $300 to $400 in weekly benefits for an interim period (August 1st to December 27th) using disaster relief funds from the FEMA budget.
However there are two other significant programs enacted under the CARES act for those are unable or unavailable to work because of COVID-19 pandemic related restrictions. These federally funded programs are the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) and Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA), that while don’t pay additional benefits do extend and expand benefit UI eligibility for millions of jobless Americans through the end of the year. You can see the different timelines in this article but in many states you do need to first be denied or have exhausted regular unemployment benefits available through the regular state funded programs before applying for the new CARES act programs. This is why the first step to get the extra/extended benefits is to apply for state unemployment benefits. Once your state agency confirms you are not eligible for regular state funded unemployment you will be automatically enrolled or provided instructions to access these new programs.
Lost Wages Assistance (LWA) Program
The LWA program provides supplemental payments to eligible unemployment benefits claimants who have been unemployed, partially unemployed, or unable or unavailable to work due to disruptions caused by COVID-19. In most states eligible claimants currently receiving benefits do not need to take any action as the state UI agency will automatically add LWA payments to their weekly benefit payment retroactive to the dates they are eligible (and have certified for relevant weeks from August 1st when the program was in effect from). But you will need to check your state UI site to confirm how they are handling this.
Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation
The PEUC program provides an additional 13 weeks of benefits (generally from the week ending April 4, 2020) for those who have used up their existing state unemployment benefits. It extends, but does not expand eligibility. Most states are requiring claimants to apply again or reconfirm their eligibility for the PEUC program, which means confirming that they have exhausted all rights to regular unemployment compensation in their state for the applicable benefit year. They must also confirm there are able to work, available to work, and actively seeking work or constrained from doing so due to COVID-19.
Pandemic Unemployment Assistance
The PUA program on the other hand was created to cover self-employed/contract workers, seeking part-time employment, or those who otherwise would not qualify for regular unemployment compensation PUA is available for 39 weeks. If you are eligible for PUA, you need to first apply for unemployment insurance and prove you are ineligible for regular unemployment benefits, which may not include filing a regular claim as a first step. States are now required to take and adjudicate a full claim for regular unemployment insurance benefits to meet this requirement. Individuals should apply using the state’s PUA application process (see their websites) and, in states that have not yet established that process, must wait until it is established.
The PUA and PEUC benefits are generally equal to or less than the regular state unemployment maximum benefit amount.
Delays in Applying for Enhanced Unemployment Benefits
What’s causing a lot of issues for jobless workers who are eligible for the new programs is that in many cases they have to reapply or re-certifying for these benefits via their state’s online portal or following a letter from their state agency that confirms eligibility for these programs. This is still not a smooth process with over 40 million workers having had to file unemployment claims nationwide, a flood that’s overwhelmed some states, freezing antiquated computer systems and jamming websites and phone lines for days. This has been confirmed from the several hundred comments across the various articles written on the enhanced/extended unemployment benefit programs. I hear you and and am trying to publish/update the latest information in addition to answering comments.
PUA and the PEUC programs will continue through the end of the year, unless there is an extension of unemployment benefits. The department of labor has recently issued additional guidelines and data on these programs as well.
Federal-State Extended Unemployment Benefits Program
Several states have also activated their extended benefits program (EB) which was provided federal funding under the CARES act. This provides even more weeks of unemployment coverage above and beyond the above programs. According to the Department of Labor (DOL), the agency which funds and sets guidelines for federal unemployment funding. EB is only payable after the using available PEUC benefits for those eligible. Each state must
determine if an individual meets all EB eligibility requirements, hence they will ask an claimant to reapply or provide proof of their eligibility for ongoing benefits.