DOL Guidance on Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation and Pandemic Unemployment Assistance
The United States Department of Labor (“DOL”) recently published two Unemployment Insurance Program Letters (“UIPL”) to assist states in implementing Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation, UIPL 15-20, and Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, UIPL 16-20, which are programs available under the CARES Act. Below is a brief overview.
Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (“FPUC”)
Under FPUC, individuals receiving regular unemployment compensation under eligible state programs are eligible to receive an additional $600 per week until the last week of unemployment, through July 31, 2020. This $600 bump is in addition to regular unemployment insurance payments which, in Arizona, is a maximum of $240. Eligible state programs include regular Unemployment Compensation (such as Arizona’s Unemployment Compensation); Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation; Pandemic Emergency Assistance; Extended Benefits; Short-Time Compensation; Trade Readjustment Allowances; Disaster Unemployment Assistance; and Payments under the Self-Employment Assistance program.
Those receiving benefits under eligible state programs are entitled to receive the full benefit of FPUC, even if they receive only partial benefits under the eligible state programs. However, FPUC is not available for individuals receiving “additional benefits” programs.
Because this program is 100% fully federal funded, states may not charge employers for FPUC benefits.
No additional application is required for FPUC benefits. Individuals simply apply for state unemployment compensation and States will notify eligible persons of their entitlement to FPUC.
Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (“PUA”)
Under PUA, individuals who are normally ineligible for unemployment benefits (such as individuals who are self-employed, work as independent contractors, gig-workers, or those who have already exhausted unemployment benefits) are eligible to receive unemployment benefits if they are unemployed due to circumstances caused by COVID-19. PUA benefits are generally available for up to 39 weeks, minus any weeks of regular unemployment compensation and extended benefits.
According to the DOL, the following are unemployment circumstances caused by COVID-19:
- The individual has been diagnosed with COVID-19 or is experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 and is seeking a medical diagnosis;
- A member of the individual’s household has been diagnosed with COVID-19;
- The individual is providing care for a family member or a member of the individual’s household who has been diagnosed with COVID-19;
- A child or other person in the household for which the individual has primary caregiving responsibility is unable to attend school or another facility that is closed as a direct result of the COVID-19 public health emergency and such school or facility care is required for the individual to work;
- The individual is unable to reach the place of employment because of a quarantine imposed as a direct result of the COVID-19 public health emergency;
- The individual is unable to reach the place of employment because the individual has been advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine due to concerns related to COVID-19;
- The individual was scheduled to commence employment and does not have a job or is unable to reach the job as a direct result of the COVID-19 public health emergency;
- The individual has become the breadwinner or major support for a household because the head of the household has died as a direct result of COVID-19;
- The individual has to quit his or her job as a direct result of COVID-19; or
- The individual’s place of employment is closed as a direct result of the COVID-19 public health emergency.
PUA benefits are not available for those who are able to telework (with pay) or are receiving paid leave. But, if an individual is working less hours or receiving less sick pay than a regular work week, those individuals may be eligible for reduced PUA benefits.
Like with FPUC, PUA benefits are 100% covered by the federal government.
The amount of PUA benefits is equal to the weekly benefit amount authorized under state unemployment compensation laws. In Arizona, the maximum amount is $240. Those receiving PUA benefits are also eligible for FPUC benefits, discussed above.
In these times of uncertainty, knowing your options and obligations is incredibly important. If you have any questions regarding the availability of unemployment benefits or your obligations as an employer, contact the experienced employment law attorneys at Mesch Clark Rothschild.