Did Your Unemployment Benefits Expire? Two Programs Could Help

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Two coronavirus measures produced by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act are expected to receive an increase in recipients after a spokesperson for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) announced that President Trump’s Lost Wages Assistance program would be limited to six weeks.

Those two measures, the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) program and the Extended Benefits (EB) program, are supposed to provide relief for people whose regular unemployment benefits have expired.

However, there are concerns that Americans who lost their job last summer or even early this year may exhaust these extended benefits earlier than expected. This is of particular concern for those on Extended Benefits (EB), which are the last source of funds for the unemployed.

Those Receiving PEUC May Run out of Benefits Before the End of the Year

PEUC provides 13 additional weeks of unemployment benefits for those who were eligible to receive unemployment, but whose benefits expired. The government FAQ reported that 100% of the benefits were federally funded.

According to the Associated Press, 1.4 million people are already using PEUC benefits.

CNBC reported that the PEUC program will end at the end of the year. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) reported, “by early next year, it’s likely that millions of people will have exhausted their benefits before finding work.”

According to the CBPP’s report, those who lost their job last year and started using PEUC in April could run out of those benefits very soon:

Even with these provisions, a large number of workers will start to exhaust their benefits before the end of the year — with many more exhausting early next year — if the next relief package does not increase the total number of weeks of benefits available and extend PUA and PEUC into next year. By early next year, it’s likely that millions of people will have exhausted their benefits before finding work.

Extended Benefits Offer a Lifeline for Those Who Have Exhausted PEUC Benefits

According to a U.S. Department of Labor document, those who exhaust their PEUC benefits can apply for Extended Benefits (EB). Those eligible for EB must have:

  • Exhausted all regular unemployment benefits on or after May 9, 2020
  • Exhausted all PEUC benefits
  • Maintained eligibility for unemployment benefits
  • Had wages in the base period that included either (a) 20 weeks of full-time employment, (b) wages higher than 40 times recent weekly benefits or (c) total wages at or above 150% of the highest quarter

EB continue unemployment benefits and can range from 6-20 weeks; the Associated Press reported that 241,000 people have been receiving checks under this program.

Unfortunately, because of how many weeks a program is available depends on the state, this means some unemployed people may lose their eligibility between October and early next year. According to that CBPP report, “someone who lost their job between July and September 2019, started PEUC in April after the enactment of CARES, and was in a state with 13 weeks of EB will have exhausted all available weeks of benefits by the beginning of October 2020.”

Some states, such as Massachusetts, have also indicated that the extended benefit may have a “different weekly rate.”

With no deal in sight to extend the benefits, many unemployed Americans will be relying on both programs to continue receiving unemployment benefits.

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