New Pandemic Changes for Unemployment Benefit Claimants

Posted on: December 28, 2020

Potential New Pandemic Changes for Unemployment Benefit Claimants

Updated as of January 12, 2021.

Congress passed the new stimulus bill providing new relief for many. These benefits are sometimes called PUA and PEUC. Here are some of the new changes that will occur:

 

Will my benefits continue past December 26, 2020?

The last payments under the previous stimulus bill were issued for the week ending on December 26, 2020.

Under the new stimulus package, eligibility for benefits would be extended from:

  • 39 weeks (under the CARES Act) to 50 weeks for those under Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, which is only two weeks short of a year… OR
  • 11 weeks (under the CARES Act) to 24 weeks for those under Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation.

BUT… all of this would end on March 14, 2021 unless it gets extended further.

To get this, claimants must meet the requirements weekly, by certifying with the agency weekly, looking for work, etc.

You may need to refile to continue your eligibility, but depending on your facts and what the agency requires.

Will my benefits be the same amount?

The federal government will add an extra $300 a week to unemployment checks. This will be similar to the previous extra $600 supplement under the CARES Act.

And if Louisiana takes certain action, some workers who had low reported wages but also had some other work will get a $100 a week increase because their benefits are so low. This new program will most likely apply to workers such as gig-workers or independent contractors that have a mixed form of earned income.

Will my benefits count towards my income for SNAP (also known as Food Stamps)? 

If you are receiving or applying for SNAP, the extra $300 will NOT be counted as income to determine if you are eligible for SNAP.

However, State unemployment benefits will still be counted.

What happens after the changes expire on March 14, 2021?

If you have not used all your benefits weeks by then, the new stimulus bill would allow for benefits to continue for an additional 4 weeks. This means that your benefits would continue until the week of April 5, 2021.

Again these additional 4 weeks are ONLY for those who do not use all their benefits by March 14, 2021. For example, if you are on your 36th week (if you are a pandemic unemployment assistance claimant) of receiving benefits on March 14th then you will be able to continue receiving benefits for 4 more weeks.

There is no information or plan yet for those who used all their benefits before then.

Can benefits be retroactive to my original date of unemployment?

Maybe. Claimants who started receiving their benefits based on specific Covid-19 reasons before December 26, 2020 were able to receive unemployment benefits back to their original date of the unemployment. Newer claimants would only be able to back date their Covid-related claims for their related COVID-19 unemployment to December 1, 2020, even if the job loss was earlier.

 

Will the COVID-19 related reasons for eligibility change?

No. There have been no changes to the COVID-19 related reasons that allow some people to qualify for unemployment even if they would not have under normal state law. People who would not get unemployment under normal state law continue to be eligible for if you meet one or more of the following COVID-19 related reasons:

  • You have been diagnosed with COVID-19 or are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 and are seeking medical diagnosis;
  • member of your household has been diagnosed with COVID-19;
  • You are providing care for a family member or a member of your household who has COVID-19;
  • A child or other person in the household for which you are responsible for is unable to attend school or another facility that is closed as a direct result of the COVID-19 public health emergency and such school or facility care is required for the individual to work;
  • You are unable to reach your workplace because of a quarantine imposed as a direct result of COVID-19;
  • You are unable to reach your workplace because you have been advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine due to COVID-19;
  • You were scheduled to commence employment and do not have a job or are unable to reach the job as a direct result of the COVID-19;
  • You have become the breadwinner or major support for a household because the head of the household has died as a direct result of COVID-19, and/or
  • Your place of employment is closed as a direct result of the COVID-19 public health emergency.

Other reasons might be recognized depending on your situation. It is important to remember that LWC will be reviewing each claim on an individual basis.

Will there be any new requirements for applicants?

Yes. If you have been receiving benefits throughout this year, you may be asked submit proof of wages you earned from employment. This requirement will be for both regular W-2 workers and self-employed workers. You will have 90 days to submit these records to the agency. It is not certain when this 90 day deadline would start, but you should be receiving some notice from the agency.

Failing to provide proof of wages should not be the only reason for your benefits to stop. Though it is important that you have these records ready in case you will need to provide them to avoid any delays.

New applicants who start filing on or after January 31 will also need to provide proof of their earnings, but will only have 21 days to provide this proof to the agency. There may be some exceptions to the 21 day deadline if there is good cause. Again failing to provide proof of wages should not be the only reasons for benefits to stop, but it is important to have these records ready.

This new requirement will mostly be apply to those receiving benefits under Pandemic Unemployment Assistance.

If I am asked to refile, will my weekly benefit amount change due to my new base period?

Most likely not. The new stimulus bill will allow most people to continue receiving benefits based on the original base period you had when you first filed your claim for unemployment benefits. This means your weekly benefit amount should not change. In some unusual situations, this may not be true. You can contact the number below to see if we can help if your weekly benefit amount goes down.

Other important information:

It is important that you file your weekly certifications. Failure to file weekly certifications was sometimes excused in the summer and fall of 2020. But now failure to do this may keep your benefits from continuing.

This Blog post is only meant to provide information on the new stimulus bill. There is still no information on how these changes will happen in the course of the next couple of weeks. Please keep checking the SLLS blog for updates and changes in the law.

If you are having problems with your unemployment benefits please feel free to call the Southeast Louisiana Legal Services Covid-19 Legal Hotline at 1-844-244-7871. We may be able to provide free legal assistance regarding your unemployment situation.

 

 

 

 

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