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New CARES Act Guidance On Unemployment Insurance For States In Response To COVID-19 Crisis

The U.S. Department of Labor announced the publication of Unemployment Insurance Program Letter 14-20 (UIPL) outlining relevant provisions of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act related to the administration of and eligibility criteria for state unemployment insurance (UI) programs, including Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) for those not typically eligible for UI, such as gig workers, and expanded UI benefits. Today’s guidance is the first of several upcoming UIPLs to states on the unemployment insurance provisions of the CARES Act.

The CARES Act follows decisive and timely actions already taken by the department, Congress and President Trump to provide American families with much-need relief during the COVID-19 crisis.

“As workers across the country make sacrifices to combat the coronavirus, the U.S. Department of Labor is focused on supporting them and their families during a time of economic hardship,” said Secretary of Labor Eugene Scalia. “The Department is offering guidance and support so that States can provide benefits quickly while protecting the integrity of the unemployment insurance system.”

The UIPL outlines several new programs under the recent CARES Act. PUA provides benefits for eligible individuals who are self-employed, seeking part-time employment, or who otherwise would not qualify for UI benefits under state or federal law. To be eligible, among other requirements, individuals must demonstrate that they are otherwise able to work and available for work within the meaning of applicable state law, except that they are unemployed, partially unemployed, or unable or unavailable to work because of COVID-19 related reasons.

Under the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) program, eligible individuals who are collecting certain UI benefits, including regular unemployment compensation, will receive an additional $600 in federal benefits per week for weeks of unemployment ending on or before July 31, 2020. Additionally, the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) program allows those who have exhausted benefits under regular unemployment compensation or other programs to receive up to 13 weeks of additional benefits. States must offer flexibility in meeting PEUC eligibility requirements related to “actively seeking work” if an applicant’s ability to do so is impacted by COVID-19.