Federal Unemployment Benefits Are Ending: What to Expect Next

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Federal unemployment benefits programs under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act ended on September 4, 2021. An individual may no longer receive benefits for claims under these federal programs after September 4: Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA), Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC), Pandemic Additional Compensation (PAC) and Mixed Earner Unemployment Compensation (MEUC). PAC is also known as the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) program.

Federal-State Extended Duration (FED-ED) benefits will no longer be paid after September 11, 2021. If an individual has a claim for benefits set to be awarded for weeks before the cutoff dates, that was unpaid as of the cutoff dates, benefits for this claim will be paid out when the issue with the claim is resolved.

No Payment With Balance Left

The federal government will not allow benefit payments to be made for weeks of unemployment after PUA, PEUC, PAC and MEUC end. This is true even if the claimant has a balance left on their pandemic unemployment benefits claim. For PUA specifically, the last day to apply is October 6, 2021, for weeks of unemployment before September 4.

An individual who was previously denied PUA benefits for one or more weeks should review recently updated COVID-19 pandemic reasons to explain why they were, or remained, out of work during the public health emergency. For California, the Employment Development Department (EDD) Unemployment Insurance (UI) Online homepage will have a PUA Reassessment section to submit COVID-19 reasons. If an individual meets PUA requirements under any of these reasons, they may be eligible for weeks that were previously denied.

The DNCP Program

If an individual has a PEUC extension, federal law does not allow PEUC benefits to be paid for weeks of unemployment after September 4, 2021. In California, an individual who qualified for the Deferred New Claim Payment (DNCP) program will automatically be moved to their unexpired, regular unemployment claim with a lower weekly benefit amount. The state UI office will notify the individual about how to certify for future weeks under their regular unemployment claim.

To qualify for the DNCP program, an individual must qualify for unemployment insurance after their benefit year end (BYE). The state will let the individual run out their PEUC weeks and then place them back on UI benefits. This will continue until the individual runs out of regular UI weeks. The state has sent out new monetary determination letters with the new weekly benefit amount and BYE date.

FED-ED Extension Gives Extra Weeks

An individual who has used all their PEUC benefits may qualify for a FED-ED extension. In California, the FED-ED extension is available for eligible weeks of unemployment between May 10, 2020, and September 11, 2021. The FED-ED extension began August 8, 2021. It provides up to 13 weeks of additional benefits for those who used up all their unemployment benefits during a period of high unemployment.

Before August 8, the FED-ED extension provided up to 20 weeks of benefits since July 2020. If an individual had their FED-ED extension filed before August 8 and already collected at least 13 weeks of benefits, their FED-ED extension ended August 7. This is true even if they had a balance left on their claim.

Purpose of a Claim Balance

A claim balance shows the maximum amount that can be collected on a claim or extension. It is not necessarily the full amount an individual will collect on their claim. An individual who has an active claim and does not certify for certain weeks could be disqualified for those weeks and still have a balance on their claim. An individual who is eligible for reduced weekly benefits will still have a balance left when their claim ends.

State Unemployment Claims Still Paying

An individual who is being paid from a state unemployment claim that has not yet run out is still eligible to receive benefits. Every state offers a different number of weeks of benefits. For example, North Carolina offers eligible claimants up to 13 weeks of benefits per year, with a maximum benefit of $350 a week.

California offers claimants up to 26 weeks of benefits, with a maximum benefit of $450 per week. In California, a person who has had no income in the past 18 months does not have enough wages to qualify for a new regular state unemployment insurance claim. EDD has a calculator on its website to estimate any potential benefits available.

Next Steps Regarding Unemployment Benefits

The novel coronavirus still poses a threat to public health. The expiration of federal unemployment benefit programs in California alone means that an estimated 2.2 million people will stop receiving unemployment benefits. Another approximately 500,000 Californians will continue receiving regular state unemployment insurance, but without the $300 federal PAC supplement. Another option for unemployed individuals with a family is Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF).

An individual who loses their job or sees their hours cut after the Sept. 4 cutoff date should apply for regular state unemployment insurance. They can also consider other options to preserve their current lifestyle and healthcare. These may range from continuation of health coverage through COBRA to getting short-term or long-term disability insurance to pursuing legal remedies for wrongful discharge or termination.

State-Specific Aid Programs

In many states, federal and state programs have substantially expanded benefits to help eligible families. The American Rescue Plan, a federal plan for relief which was signed into law in March 2021, helped provide funding for such programs.

In California, the California Comeback Plan offers some additional benefits for families. State employment offices like EDD in California are partnering with other state agencies, departments and county and community organizations. They are raising awareness about benefit programs relating to food, rent and utilities, free or low-cost health insurance, cash aid for children with families and stimulus payments. In California, EDD is posting links to such benefit programs on UI Online, the unemployment insurance online portal.

Look to State Benefits

An individual who was receiving benefits from a federal unemployment program should look to their state unemployment office’s guidelines to understand what they should do after September 4. States have emailed specific directions to claimants. They have also posted general directions online.

For example, the Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity advises a claimant to file their certifications through September 4, watch for and respond to future messages from the department and not throw away their new debit card. That state is sending out a new debit card to its unemployment insurance claimants, from U.S. Bank, a different bank than before. The claimants will have until November 30, 2021 to access the money posted to their old card with Bank of America.

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