The President signed COVID-19 economic relief legislation which included provisions to extend the unemployment insurance (UI) programs created under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. The Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) and Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) programs have been extended, and the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) program has been reinstated, providing an additional $300 weekly benefit until March 14, 2021.
“I’m pleased that this extension has been passed as we’ll be able to provide unemployed Vermonters with the support they desperately need,” said Governor Phil Scott. “Our team at the Department of Labor is working to implement these changes and get benefits to claimants as quickly as possible so that Vermonters don’t experience any further delays.”
PUA and PEUC benefits will be extended by 11 weeks for eligible claimants. Claimants will be able to receive these extended benefits through the benefit week ending April 10, 2021; however, no new PEUC or PUA claims will be accepted after March 14, 2021. Claimants who had previously exhausted their benefits under the PEUC program or the Extended Benefits program and are still unemployed can log into their claimant portal and resume filing beginning January 3, 2021. Claimants do not need to take any additional action in order to receive the new $300 weekly FPUC benefit.
The U.S. Department of Labor has also announced that states will be able to pay benefits for the benefit week ending January 2, 2021, meaning there will be no “lost week” or gap in benefits for PUA or PEUC claimants who were eligible for benefits for the week ending December 26, 2020. However, if claimants exhausted benefits prior to the week ending December 26, the first week they would be able to file for benefits under the extensions is for the week ending January 2, 2021. The Vermont Department of Labor is working to make necessary changes to the regular UI and PUA systems and claimants may experience a delay in their ability to file but they will receive payment for the benefit week ending January 2, 2021.
This legislation also created the new Mixed Earner Unemployment Compensation (MEUC) program, which makes claimants filing in regular UI or PEUC who also have earned more than $5,000 in self-employed wages for the previous tax year eligible for an additional $100 weekly benefit (on top of their weekly benefit amount and the $300 FPUC benefit). This program is optional for states and Vermont has chosen to enroll to bring this benefit to eligible Vermonters.
The Vermont Department of Labor is currently awaiting guidance from the U.S. Department of Labor in early to mid-January to further understand and implements these programs.
“Our team is doing everything we can on the front end to make sure we are prepared to implement these changes as soon as the guidance is issued from the U.S. Department of Labor,” said Commissioner Michael Harrington. “Getting benefits out the door as quickly as possible remains our top priority and I encourage claimants to closely monitor their email and the Department’s website for program updates over the coming days and weeks.”
Updates for these programs will be provided directly to claimants via email and through the Department’s website and social media. More information on the extension of the CARES Act and these programs, as well as other resources available through the Department of Labor, may be found at labor.vermont.gov/covid19.