COVID-19 Resource Center

March 30, 2020

COVID-19: Unemployment Compensation Expansion Under CARES

Late last week, the President signed the “Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act,” commonly referred to as the “CARES.”  While this law included unprecedented stimulus to a wide range of economic sectors, it also provides for the much anticipated expansion to Unemployment Compensation for the financial support of individuals and their families.  Here is a summary of those provisions.

Unemployment Compensation Applications

All States are required to offer application access and assistance with completion in two of three methods including in person, over the phone, and online.

Pandemic Unemployment Assistance

A temporary Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program has been created to provide payment to individuals not traditionally eligible for unemployment benefits, including those who are self-employed, independent contractors, and those with limited work history, who are unable to work as a direct result of the coronavirus public health emergency. These specific benefits are also available to those who have exhausted all rights to regular unemployment or extended benefits under State and Federal provisions.

These benefits are not payable to individuals who are permitted by their employers to work from home and who are receiving sick leave or any other paid-time-off benefits.

To be eligible for these specific payments, the individual must certify that he or she is either:

  1. able to work but is unemployed or partially unemployed, OR
  2. is unable or unavailable to work because he or she was diagnosed with COVID-19 or is seeking a medical diagnosis, or a member of the individual’s household is diagnosed with COVID-19 or meets one of the following factors:
  • the individual is providing care to a family member or member in the individual’s household who is diagnosed with COVID-19;
  • a child or another person in the individual’s household cannot attend child care or another facility for care that is closed as a direct result of COVID-19;
  • the individual is unable to reach his or her place of employment due to a quarantine requirement;
  • the individual can reach his or her place of employment but has been instructed to self-quarantine;
  • the individual was scheduled to start employment but cannot reach his or her new place of employment or no longer has the new employment available due to COVID-19;
  • the individual has become the bread winner or major support for the household due to COVID-19;
  • the individual has quit his or her job due to COVID-19;
  • the individual’s place of employment is closed due to COVID-19;
  • the individual is self-employed and cannot find work or is unemployed.

The benefits under this temporary program are retroactive to January 27, 2020 and run through December 31, 2020, for maximum payments of no more than 39 weeks.

The payments under this temporary program are administered by the State in which the individual works, and are equal to the weekly benefit amount authorized under the unemployment compensation law of the State where the covered individual was employed.  States will be reimbursed by the Department of Labor for the payments that are made under this temporary program, based upon an Agreement that must be executed between the State and the Department of Labor.

Emergency Increase in Unemployment Compensation Benefits

Separate and apart from the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program, the law also provides for an additional Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation payment of $600.00 per week to each recipient of unemployment compensation benefits, including Pandemic Unemployment Assistance.  This amount is paid over and above benefits paid by each State and is payable for approximately four months, from the date of enactment through July 31, 2020.  Again, each State must choose to avail themselves of this reimbursable benefit.

Temporary Full Federal Funding of the First Week of Regular Unemployment

The Federal government will reimburse States through December 31, 2020, who waive existing waiting week provisions so individuals receive immediate unemployment benefits without a time gap in receiving payments. 

Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation

States may choose to provide an additional 13-weeks of benefits at the conclusion of the usual 26-weeks period, through December 31, 2020. Therefore, the total number of weeks that an employee may receive unemployment benefits under the federal law is 39 weeks, unless extended by subsequent legislative action.

Additional analysis and information will be forthcoming on the remaining portions of the CARES Act.  In the meantime, should you have any questions regarding how these provisions impact your business, please do not hesitate to contact our Employment Law Group at 1-888-488-2638.