The Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program was put in place primarily for those out-of-work Americans who are not eligible for regular state unemployment benefits and are unemployed, partially unemployed, or unable or unavailable to work because of certain health or economic consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic. This includes independent contractors, freelancers or gig economy workers. Many who have irregular or several part time jobs.
This group of jobless workers are generally self-employed (1099 wages) and are not covered by traditional state unemployment programs because they don’t get regular wages or W2 income so did not automatically contribute taxes towards regular state unemployment.
The PUA program, originally enacted under the CARES act of 2020, has been extended several times over the last year and was meant to last until the week ending September 4th, 2021. The program is federally funded, but administered by the states. And now many of these state Governors, overwhelmingly Republican, have instructed their unemployment agencies to end the PUA program along with the supplementary $300 FPUC payment up to 10 weeks early.
The rationale behind this is that these generous pandemic benefits, especially the extra $300 weekly payment, deter lower income workers (who make less than $15 p/hour) in these states from returning to work. By removing this federally funded unemployment support, business’ and law makers pushing these changes argue that workers will be much more motivated to return to work and fill the many open job vacancies available as the nation emerges from the pandemic.
Tran and her husband have managed a live performance space in Kansas City since 2014. They shut down during the pandemic when their main venue closed. They have just started to have a few shows. A recent outdoor one was foiled by rain. They are optimistic they will mostly be back by the end of summer, but they are barely making any money now, and Missouri just cut off unemployment entirely for gig workers and the self-employed.Washington Post
Opponents to the early termination of these programs argue that the reason people are not going back to work is due to fears around getting COVID and/or child care and schooling restrictions. Many economists also don’t think the enhanced unemployment benefit are the primary factor causing business’ to face a worker shortage. Instead they are saying that business should raise wages and governments should reopen schools/childcare faster.
The PUA program has served as a backstop for our broken and outdated unemployment insurance (UI) systems…which often exclude workers who are misclassified as independent contractors and low-wage workers. State UI laws are also unequipped to support workers for the length necessary in this pandemic and recession, and the permanent federal program that is supposed to be of use during recessions and other crises is fatally flawed and simply put, doesn’t work.
According to the Century Foundation the governors’ decisions to terminate unemployment benefits could reduce or cut off $11 billion of benefits for nearly 2 million people. Further, Government Accountability Office reporting has shown that the minimum PUA benefit is below the poverty level in 29 states. So the extra $300 FPUC weekly payment does have a significant impact.
Prominent Democrats like Bernie Sanders have also urged federal action. But states are well within their rights to terminate these programs with 30 days notice to the US Department of Labor. You can see more in this recent YouTube video on this topic.
I am writing to remind you of your congressionally-mandated requirement to provide PUA benefits to workers ineligible for state unemployment aid and urging you to ensure workers receive these benefits even when states threaten to take it away. It is critical that the US Department of Labor does everything in its power to ensure that jobless Americans continue to receive this aid as the law intendedSenator Bernie Sanders
|States Ending Unemployment Early||Programs Ending||Termination Date|
|Alabama||$300 FPUC, PUA, PEUC, MEUC||June 19th, 2021|
|Alaska||$300 FPUC||June 12th, 2021|
|Arizona||$300 FPUC||July 10th, 2021|
|Arkansas||$300 FPUC, PUA, PEUC, MEUC||June 26th, 2021|
|Florida||$300 FPUC||June 26th, 2021|
|Georgia||$300 FPUC, PUA, PEUC, MEUC||June 26th, 2021|
|Idaho||$300 FPUC, PUA, PEUC, MEUC||June 19th, 2021|
|Indiana||$300 FPUC, PUA, PEUC, MEUC||June 19th, 2021* (Legal Challenge)|
|Iowa||$300 FPUC, PUA, PEUC, MEUC||June 12th, 2021|
|Louisiana||$300 FPUC, PUA, PEUC, MEUC||July 31st, 2021|
|Maryland||$300 FPUC, PUA, PEUC, MEUC||July 3rd, 2021* (Legal Challenge; Still paying)|
|Mississippi||$300 FPUC, PUA, PEUC, MEUC||June 12th, 2021|
|Missouri||$300 FPUC, PUA, PEUC, MEUC||June 12th, 2021|
|Montana||$300 FPUC, PUA, PEUC, MEUC||June 26th, 2021|
|Nebraska||$300 FPUC, PUA, PEUC, MEUC||June 19th, 2021|
|New Hampshire||$300 FPUC, PUA, PEUC, MEUC||June 19th, 2021|
|North Dakota||$300 FPUC, PUA, PEUC, MEUC||June 19th, 2021|
|Ohio||$300 FPUC||June 26th, 2021|
|Oklahoma||$300 FPUC, PUA, PEUC, MEUC||June 26th, 2021|
|South Carolina||$300 FPUC, PUA, PEUC, MEUC||June 30th, 2021|
|South Dakota||$300 FPUC, PUA, PEUC, MEUC||June 26th, 2021|
|Tennessee||$300 FPUC, PUA, PEUC, MEUC||July 3rd, 2021|
|Texas||$300 FPUC, PUA, PEUC, MEUC||June 26th, 2021|
|Utah||$300 FPUC, PUA, PEUC, MEUC||June 26th, 2021|
|West Virginia||$300 FPUC, PUA, PEUC, MEUC||June 19th, 2021|
|Wyoming||$300 FPUC, PUA, PEUC, MEUC||June 19th, 2021|