CARES Act Unemployment Insurance Benefits Extend through 2021

The Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021 that was signed into law by President Trump on December 27, 2020, extends the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (“CARES Act”) unemployment insurance programs passed earlier this year. The CARES Act expanded unemployment insurance benefits to individuals through three programs: (1) Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (“FPUC”); (2) Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (“PEUC”); and (3) Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (“PUA”).

Review of the CARES Act

FPUC provided an extra $600 weekly benefit for all weeks of unemployment from April 5, 2020 through July 31, 2020, in addition to the benefit amount an individual would otherwise be entitled to receive under state law. PEUC provided for an additional 13 weeks of unemployment benefits for individuals who had exhausted unemployment benefits otherwise available under state law. And PUA extended unemployment benefits to certain individuals traditionally not eligible for unemployment benefits under state law, such as self-employed workers, independent contractors, or workers who have a limited work history.

Review of Extended Benefits under the New Law 

The new law revives FPUC, but reduces the $600 supplemental weekly benefit by half. This means individuals who are unemployed and receiving any unemployment benefits will now be entitled to an additional $300 in benefits for each week of unemployment between December 26, 2020 and March 14, 2021.

The new law also extends PEUC by providing up to 24 weeks of additional unemployment benefits to eligible individuals who have exhausted the unemployment benefits available under state law. With the new extension of 24 weeks, eligible individuals in many states can now receive up to 50 weeks of benefits between state programs and PEUC.  These extended benefits are also available through March 14, 2021.  After March 14, 2021, new PEUC claimants will not be eligible for the extra weeks of benefits, but individuals already receiving PEUC benefits as of March 14, 2021 will be eligible to continue to receive those benefits through April 4, 2021.

The new law also extends PUA benefits until March 14, 2021. After March 14, 2021, new claimants will no longer be permitted to apply for PUA benefits, but eligible individuals who were receiving PUA benefits as of that date will continue to receive benefits until April 5, 2021.  Also, like PEUC, the duration of PUA benefits for eligible individuals has been extended from 39 weeks under the CARES Act to a total of up to 50 weeks.

A fraud provision was included in the new law that contains specific documentation requirements and deadlines for individuals applying for PUA benefits.  As of January 31, 2021, new applicants will have 21 days to submit documentation substantiating their employment, self-employment, or planned commencement of employment/self-employment. Individuals already receiving PUA benefits prior to January 31, 2021 must provide such proof by the end of April 2021.

For additional information on this or any related topic, please contact any of the KDDK labor and employment law professionals.

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