The latest round of COVID-19 relief in the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021 will revive many aspects of unemployment relief rolled out in the CARES Act in March, although the Act reduces many of the original features.
The Act provides $286 billion for unemployment relief, which includes the following:
- Reinstates enhanced federal unemployment insurance, providing an additional $300 per week for all workers receiving unemployment benefits through March 14, 2021. This replaces the earlier $600 added subsidy that expired in July.
- Expands and extends the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program through March 14, 2021. Coverage extends to the self-employed, gig workers, and others in non-traditional employment.
- Extends the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) program through March 14, 2021, providing additional weeks of federally funded unemployment benefits to individuals who exhaust their regular state benefits.
- Increases the maximum number of weeks an individual may claim benefits through regular state unemployment plus the emergency federal programs to a total of 50 weeks.
- Allows workers who have PUA/PEUC time left on March 14, 2021 (and who remain otherwise eligible) a “transition period” to continue to use the time for an additional three weeks, through April 5, 2021.
- Affords states options for retaining an individual’s 2020 weekly benefit amount through March 14, 2021, ensuring that individuals will continue to receive maximized state benefits through the duration of PUA/PEUC as the new benefit year rolls in.
The Act also includes a technical amendment that confirms that shared work plans qualify as unemployment benefits for purposes of the $300 subsidy payment. For new filers, some states may reinstate the waiting week for receipt of benefits, as the Act reduces reimbursement from 100% to 50%.