With so many Americans now out of work, or indefinitely furloughed, questions about unemployment payments are at the top of many minds. The CARES Act addresses some of the concerns of these workers with the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program (Sections 2102-2107 of the Act). These expanded federal unemployment provisions provide for an increase in the duration, eligibility, as well as the amount of benefits to individuals.

Here are some important facts about the Act:

  • The Act offers an additional 13 weeks of unemployment insurance funded by the federal government but administered by states. In order to eligible for this provision, the unemployment must commence between January 27, 2020 and December 31, 2020.
  • This approximate three months of coverage would be in addition to what is offered by the states.
  • The expanded benefits would last through December 31, 2020.
  • The Act restricts the maximum duration of unemployment benefits to 39 weeks (almost 10 months) Although the majority of states provide 26 weeks of unemployment providing workers the opportunity to reach the maximum number of weeks (26 + 13), two states that provide more than 26 weeks would be capped (MT & MA) and nine others that provide fewer than 26 weeks would receive a more than 13 weeks to bring them up to the 39 week maximum (FL, GA, AL, SC, NC, ID, KS, MO, & AR).
  • Effective immediately, the Act provides for eligible individuals to receive the sum of whatever benefit would have been provided at the state level plus $600.
  • The Act provides benefits for previously ineligible workers such as self-employed workers, part-time workers, those without sufficient work history to qualify for benefits and workers who cannot get to work as a result of COVID-19.
  • Guidance will soon be published about what documentation “GIG” workers, those self-employed workers who are usually independent contractors, will need to provide to prove wages and work history.
  • The Act removes any waiting periods established by state unemployment laws (usually seven days).
  • To file for benefits the worker should file an unemployment claim in the state they worked as soon as possible after becoming unemployed.

Questions & Answers:

Q: How much can I receive under Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation?

The CARES Act provides for eligible individuals to receive the sum of whatever benefit would have been provided at the state level plus $600.Those who qualify at the state level will get an additional $600 through the federal program.

Q: Will I qualify even if I do not qualify for my state’s unemployment benefits?

The CARES Act provides for assistance to individuals who are not already eligible for their state’s unemployment benefits such as: 1099 or GIG workers (independent contractors), self-employed individuals, part-time workers, and those with limited work history. To apply go to your State Department of Labor website.

Q: I am able to telework but don’t want to during this crisis; am I able to receive benefits?

No. Individuals who are able to telework with pay or who have received paid sick leave or other paid leave benefits are ineligible to receive assistance under this program.

Q: Will I lose my Medicaid or State Children’s Health Insurance (CHIP) benefits?

No. Federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance is not considered income for purposes of these programs.