Many self-employed, independent contractors and gig workers who had been made eligible for unemployment insurance benefits under Enhanced Unemployment provisions within the CARES act are still unable to successfully file claims several weeks after the law was passed due to delays in states processing unemployment claims and completing income verification steps via their antiquated systems that have had challenges handling the new federal DOL guidelines covering these types of workers.
To be fair state unemployment agencies have also been deluged by an unprecedented flood of claims from millions of laid-off workers as a result of the Coronavirus induced slowdown. As a result they are also struggling to manage existing claimant groups while trying to deal with new workers. And because every state administers their own programs and system, each state is addressing and resolving these issues at different rates. But the good news is that most states now have the system updates in place for processing claims under the main programs covering these jobless workers.
There are two key programs covering gig or contract workers, the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) and the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) stimulus program that extends and expands existing state unemployment insurance (UI) benefits by up to 13 weeks (PUA) and provides a $600 p/week (FPUC) supplementary payment. The Enhanced Unemployment programs were modeled on past federally funded disaster unemployment assistance programs but the getting systems updated has been a big lift for many states since they typically do not provide jobless benefits to independent contractors and the self-employed. Especially because validating their job history, wages and employers can be very challenging.
The table at the end of this article shows where states are with getting the FPUC payments out and when they are retroactive until. Note, as explained in this article, the PUA program is open to the end of 2020, while the FPUC is only available until the end of July 2020 (unless extended). So you need to realize your unemployment benefits will likely change through the year, even if you remain unemployed and certify accurately.
Most state government leaders have acknowledged the issues around paying out timely unemployment benefits and the new claim filing situation had become so bad that many states were telling this group of workers to wait until the new applications were updated before going online to file their claims. Fortunately this has now been done and despite lengthy delays still being reported by new claimants, unemployment payments including retroactive/back-pay are being sent out to eligible PUA recipients. This also means they will be eligible for the additional $600 stimulus payment valid till July 30th, 2020.
Here are some other useful guidelines around PUA for these group of workers to be aware of:
- Alternative Ways to Contact your State Unemployment Office For Answers to Your UI PUA, PEUC and FPUC ($600) Questions
- Where is My PUA Payment and When Will I Get it in My Bank Account or Debit Card – Will This Include Back Dated Payments?
- Eligible For PUA But Do I Get Back Pay and the $600 FPUC From The Date The Program Was Initiated Or From The Week That I Filed?
- Maximum Dependent Unemployment Allowance and Benefits Extended under PUA and PEUC
For many the unemployment compensation under the PUA program means having food on the tables for their families versus going hungry and potentially homeless. So the stakes are high. Have you been impacted by this if you classified in this group? Please share your experience and any tips on filing for unemployment benefits.