The length of time unemployment benefits will be paid depends on the type of benefit payment a claimant is requesting and the total amount of regular benefits the person can receive. In Minnesota, a person who was a part-time or full-time employee before the COVID-19 pandemic can usually receive unemployment insurance (UI) for 26 weeks.
The number of weeks may be fewer if the person has not been working very long. A person who was self-employed or an independent contractor before the pandemic is not likely to be eligible to claim UI benefits, but might be able to claim Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA), a type of assistance related to COVID-19.
PEUC and the CARES Act
When a worker who has been claiming UI exhausts the amount of their benefits, they may be able to apply for a benefit extension, and they are likely to be eligible for Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC), which was created by the federal government's Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES) Act. A maximum of 24 weeks of PEUC benefits are available.
According to the terms of the Continued Assistance Act signed into law in December 2020, the last payable week for PEUC will be the week that ends March 13, 2021. If a person receives a PEUC payment that week and has a remaining balance on their account, they may be eligible to participate in a phaseout period and collect PEUC through the week ending April 10, 2021.
A person who has exhausted their UI and PEUC benefits may be eligible for PUA benefits. An individual can claim up to 50 weeks of additional unemployment benefits through PUA. If a stimulus bill is signed into law that increases the number of weeks that PEUC, PUA or both types of unemployment benefits are available, a person will be able to claim unemployment benefits for a longer amount of time.
Apply for an Extension of Unemployment Insurance Benefits
An individual can apply for an extension of UI benefits by continuing to request payment every week that their hours remain substantially reduced or they are unemployed. If their benefit account expires or their balance reaches $0, the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) will post a notification at the top of the benefit account home page.
The notification will explain how the person can apply for an extended benefit account. The claimant should click on the link displayed in their account, which invites them to apply for benefits. When a person transitions from UI to PEUC benefits, the benefit amount will not change.
Apply for PUA Benefits
A person who wants to apply for PUA must first go through the process of applying for regular unemployment benefits. Once DEED determines that the individual is not eligible for a regular or extended benefit account, it will automatically review the person’s account to determine their eligibility for PUA. A claimant does not need to complete a separate application for PUA. DEED will also automatically review the account of a worker who has exhausted their UI and PEUC benefits to determine whether that person is eligible for PUA.
Check Remaining Weeks of Benefits
A claimant can check how many weeks of UI or PEUC they have left by logging into their online benefit account. They should find their account balance under View and Maintain My Account and divide it by their weekly benefit amount (WBA). This number will be the number of weeks remaining. An individual who is working part-time and claiming benefits may be able to extend the amount of time they can claim benefits because they are not receiving their full WBA every week.
Determine Weekly Benefit Amount
A Minnesotan’s WBA for UI or PEUC is approximately 50 percent of their average weekly wage in their base period. Minnesota’s maximum WBA is $762. A base period is a recent 52-week period of time that occurred before the individual saw a substantial reduction in hours or experienced a layoff.
The amount of earnings from which the state determines a person’s WBA includes wages paid by employers, commissions, bonuses, overtime, vacation pay and severance pay, depending on timing and wages earned in other states. The amount usually does not include earnings from self-employment.
The amount of PUA benefits is based on the net income they reported on their most recent tax return. The minimum PUA benefit amount is $234. DEED may request documentation of income as a self-employed person or an independent contractor to determine the person’s eligibility for PUA.
Minnesota Unemployment Insurance Program in Pandemic
Minnesota’s UI system (UIMN) has several new rules due to the coronavirus. The requirement to engage in a work search every week to claim benefits has been waived, and an individual does not have a waiting week for which they will not receive benefits. A person who is receiving any type of unemployment benefit is required to report the amount of pre-tax income they earn every week.
If the person earns less than their WBA, they will receive their WBA amount minus their gross wages for the week. If the person earns their WBA amount or more, they will not be eligible to receive unemployment benefits that week. Their claim will remain open as long as they continue to certify weekly. Individuals who engage in part-time work, are returning to work but do not have full-time work, or those who are earning less than their WBA should continue to certify weekly.
Eligibility Requirements for Benefits
A wide range of people are eligible for unemployment benefits, from individuals who contracted COVID-19 and could not work while sick or infectious to those who could not go to their workplace because of a COVID-19 outbreak there. A parent or guardian who has been notified that their child’s school district, daycare or childcare provider has canceled classes or care is eligible for unemployment benefits. The person must make reasonable efforts to find other childcare, request time off or get another accommodation from their employer.
Their employer must respond that no reasonable accommodation was available. As school districts and daycare centers reopen, individuals who are choosing not to bring their children for in-person learning or care and refuse to return to work may become ineligible for unemployment benefits.
A person is not eligible for unemployment benefits if they are offered work but refuse to return to a workplace that is following COVID-19 safety protocols. They are ineligible if they are not legally authorized to work in the U.S. or if they quit a job and the workplace was following COVID-19 guidelines. A person is also ineligible for unemployment benefits if they are on electronic home monitoring because they were convicted of a criminal charge. This is true even if the person was released from jail or prison early because of the pandemic.
- Minnesota Unemployment Insurance: COVID-19 Information for Workers
- U.S. Department of Labor Blog: New COVID-19 Unemployment Benefits: Answering Common Questions
- Minnesota Unemployment Insurance: COVID-19 Information for Self-employed People and Independent Contractors
- Minnesota Unemployment Insurance: Information Handbook, How Much Will I Receive?
- Minnesota Unemployment Insurance: Eligibility Benefits
- St. Paul Public Schools: Reopen SPPS
- Minnesota Unemployment Insurance: Applying for a Benefit Extension
Jessica Zimmer is a journalist and attorney based in northern California. She has practiced in a wide variety of fields, including criminal defense, property law, immigration, employment law, and family law.