Extensions of Federal Unemployment Programs

January 22, 2021

By: Attorney Naomi Frisch and Emma Sliwinski

            COVID-19 has brought numerous changes for people in Illinois and across the nation, including an unprecedented number of lay-offs. As a result, Illinois and the United States as a whole have witnessed a dramatic increase in applications for unemployment benefits. Thankfully, under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act), Congress has enacted various federally mandated programs to assist those individuals who do not qualify for traditional unemployment benefits and to provide extra relief to claimants who currently are collecting unemployment benefits. While the CARES Act expired on December 31, 2020, Congress recently passed legislation, the Continued Assistance for Unemployed Workers Act of 2020 (“the Extension”), which extended the availability of some of these federal benefits. The following is a summary of programs that will be available through the Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES):

Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC)

Under the CARES Act, FPUC was available between April and July of 2020 and provided a benefit of an additional $600 per week for individuals receiving both regular unemployment benefits and Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA). The Extension provides an additional $300 per week from the week ending January 2, 2021 through the week ending March 13, 2021 (a total of 11 weeks). On January 4, 2021, IDES began to pay the $300 supplements in FPUC for week ending January 2, 2021 for participants with active claims in all programs, including PUA.

 

Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA)

Under the CARES Act, PUA is available to individuals who do not otherwise qualify for regular unemployment benefits or who are unable to work due to certain conditions caused by the Coronavirus Pandemic.  The CARES Act provided for a maximum of 39 weeks of PUA, and the Extension increased this eligibility to a maximum of 50 weeks.  According to IDES, PUA claimants who had not yet exhausted their 39 weeks can certify as usual for the week ending January 2, 2021 and forward, and will experience no interruption in coverage. However, the CARES Act imposes limitations on backdating new claims and requires additional verification requirements on new claims. The IDES has yet to release guidance on these new requirements.  Nonetheless, IDES is still taking new PUA claims.  It is recommended that new PUA claimants pay careful attention to any communications received from the IDES in the coming weeks so as to ensure compliance with the new requirements.  

Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) and Extended Benefits (EB)

The CARES Act provided for 13 weeks of additional benefits to regular unemployment insurance recipients (PEUC). Under the Extension, PEUC is now available for an additional 11 weeks, or up to 24 total weeks. Extended Benefits (EB) is a state sponsored program which provides at least an additional 13 weeks of benefits after PEUC is exhausted.  Not all claimants will qualify for EB, however, if an individual is qualified for EB, the IDES will transition them onto EB automatically. At the recommendation of IDES, claimants currently collecting regular unemployment benefits should continue to certify to ensure a smooth transition to PEUC and EB. IDES currently is working on providing clearer and more precise instructions for transitioning between benefit programs. If you believe you should be receiving either PEUC or EB, but your benefits have stopped, contact CTM Legal Group for a consultation today.

Mixed Earner Unemployment Compensation (MEUC) – A NEW PROGRAM

On December 31, 2021, the State of Illinois submitted its agreement to participate in MEUC to the USDOL. MEUC will provide an additional $100 per week, during the same 11 weeks as FPUC, to qualified individuals who receive income from traditional employment and independent contractor work. States, including Illinois, await further guidance from USDOL on how this program should take shape, including what information will be required to verify eligibility.

PUA Overpayment Forgiveness

The Extension also recommends forgiveness of overpayments assessed on individuals who improperly received PUA through no fault of their own.  The IDES is waiting for additional guidance from the United States Department of Labor before issuing further information regarding PUA overpayments.

            Do you have legal questions regarding these federal unemployment programs? If so, please feel free to contact CTM Legal Group at 312-818-6700 and our team will be more than happy to assist you.