The massive appropriations and COVID-19 relief legislation that President Donald Trump signed December 27, 2020, includes provisions that extend various supplemental employment benefits until March or April, depending on the program.
The Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021, includes the Continued Assistance Act, which continues much of the relief originally provided in last year’s Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.
The Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) program, which originally provided an additional $600 weekly benefit to individuals who were collecting regular unemployment compensation, was renewed (albeit at just $300 per week this time) for weeks between December 26, 2020, and March 14, 2021. Certain partially self-employed individuals may get an additional $100 under an optional new Mixed Earners Unemployment Compensation benefit.
Both Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) and Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA), which were scheduled to expire December 31, 2020, were extended through the week ending April 11, 2021. The last week for which new applications may be accepted ends March 14.
The maximum number of weeks of PUA benefits was increased from 39 weeks to 50 weeks. The number of weeks available continues to be reduced by any weeks of regular unemployment compensation, including extended benefits, received during the pandemic. Individuals may only collect these additional 11 weeks of benefits for weeks of unemployment beginning on or after December 27, 2020.
New Requirements for PUA Claims
PUA applicants will face new paperwork requirements. Individuals filing a new PUA application on or after January 31, 2021 (regardless of whether the claim is backdated), must provide substantial documentation of unemployment or self-employment within 21 days of application or the date the state agency asks for it, whichever is later. However, those who apply for PUA before January 31, 2021, and receive a payment of PUA on or after December 27, 2020, will have 90 days to do so.
PUA claimants also must provide a self-certification that their unemployment, partial unemployment, or inability or unavailability to work is specifically due to one or more of the COVID-19 related reasons specified in the CARES Act, and must identify that specific reason, for each week that PUA is claimed.
Reporting Refusals to Work
The new law requires states to have a method for addressing circumstances where an individual refuses to return to work, or accept an offer of suitable work, without good cause. This includes a plain-language notice to such claimants describing the extent of their legal rights to refuse certain work and how they can contest a denial of benefits.
States also must provide a reporting method for employers to notify the state agency when an individual refuses an offer of employment. However, the act itself does not require employers to report such refusals.
The Continued Assistance Act’s changes to the FPUC, PUA, and PEUC programs, along with other provisions applicable to unemployment insurance, were summarized by the U.S. Department of Labor in UIPL 9-21.
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