The American Rescue Plan (ARP) also known as the Biden $1.9 trillion stimulus package has now been passed into law and reflects many of the unemployment extensions Democrats had 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 have been extended from when the current CAA COVID relief bill ends on March 14th, 2021 to September 6th, 2021. The Department of Labor (DOL) has released final guidelines on the ARP funded extensions and includes the following updates.
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 up to 29 weeks. This brings the total number of weeks in the program to 79, from the 50 weeks provided under the CARES and CAA bills.
The DOL has acknowledged that there are only 25 weeks between the week ending March 13, 2021, and the last payable week of September 4, 2021. As such, eligible claimants will not exhaust their full 29 week PUA entitlement stated in the ARP bill before the program expires. The number of weeks available under the program would be reduced by any weeks of regular UC and EB that the individual receives during the coverage period.
Note however, any payments under the Biden/ARP stimulus package can only be backdated or retroactively paid to the start of the program, which is the week starting March 14th and ending March 20th, 2021 (or March 21st for states with a Sunday benefit week end).
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 ARP 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 the last week ending before September 6th, 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 29 weeks, bringing the total amount of PEUC coverage to 53 weeks. As noted above, the actual number of weeks available in the coverage period is only 25 weeks.
Another change, which applies to both the PUA and PEUC programs is that that the 4-week phaseout period originally provided in the Continued Assistance Act has been repealed. So all benefits will end by September 6th, even if claimants have active weeks or a claim balance remaining.
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. Also the Department of Labor (DOL) has now issued formal guidelines for state UI agencies to implement the new program extensions over the next few weeks. I’ll track progress and post updates as they come to hand and you can subscribe to get the latest information.