The United States Department of Labor has issued instructions regarding the Unemployment Insurance provisions of the Continued Assistance Act 2021. Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA), which provides benefits to independent contractors and self-employed persons who are unable to work because of COVID-19, is extended to the weeks of unemployment ending on or before March 14, 2021. Individuals receiving PUA as of the end of the program who have not yet exhausted their PUA may continue to collect PUA for any week they have entitlement until the week of April 5, 2021. The maximum number of weeks of PUA is increased from 39 weeks to 50 weeks. The number of weeks available continues to be reduced by any weeks of unemployment insurance or extended benefits received.
States have been given the authority to waive PUA and LWA overpayments when the individual is not at fault and repayment would be contrary to equity and good conscience.
An individual must have exhausted all entitlement to unemployment insurance, Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC), and extended benefits before filing for PUA. However, the Continued Assistance Act provides a hold harmless provision for an individual who previously exhausted PUA but became eligible for additional amounts of PEUC beginning on or after December 27, 2020. States may continue paying PUA to an individual currently receiving PUA who is newly eligible to receive PEUC because of the additional weeks of PEUC. States have four weeks to implement the additional amounts of PEUC and move an individual from PUA to PEUC.
Individuals filing for PUA must have their claim backdated to the first week during the Pandemic Assistance Period that the individual was unemployed, partially unemployed, or unable or unavailable to work because of COVID-19.
Any individual who receives PUA after December 27, 2020 must provide documentation substantiating employment or self-employment, or the planned beginning of employment or self-employment. For persons applying on or after January 31, 2021 are required to provide documentation within 21 days of applying or the date the individual is directed to submit the documentation by the State Agency, whichever is later. Individuals applying before January 31, 2021 and receiving a payment after December 27, 2020 are required to provide documentation within 90 days of applying or the date the individual is directed to submit the documentation by the State Agency, whichever is later.
States must have a system of identity verification for PUA.
Pandemic Unemployment Compensation is reauthorized for $300 per week in supplemental benefits for weeks of unemployment beginning after December 26, 2020 and ending on or before March 14, 2021.
States have the option to establish a Mixed Earners Unemployment Compensation. If enacted, this program provides an additional $100 additional payment per week for persons who received at least $5,000 in self-employment income in the most recent taxable year, who are receiving another unemployment insurance benefit except for PUC, and who submit documentation of their self-employment income. PEUC is extended to weeks of unemployment ending on or before March 14, 2021. Individuals receiving PEUC as of the end of the program who have not yet exhausted their PEUC may continue to collect PEUC for any week they have entitlement until the week of April 5, 2021. The maximum amount of PEUC is increased from 13 times the individual’s average earnings to 24 times the individual’s average earnings.
States can allow continued PEUC when an individual qualifies for regular unemployment insurance and regular unemployment insurance is at least $25 less than PEUC. If an individual previously exhausted PEUC and began receiving extended benefits, they must exhaust extended benefits before being eligible for PEUC. If permitted by state law, if the state remains in an extended benefit period when an individual exhausts PEUC, the individual may still be eligible for extended benefits.
States must have a method to address when an individual refuses to return to work or accept an offer of suitable work without good cause. States must provide a reporting method for employers to notify the state agency when an individual refuses an offer of employment. States must notify claimants who refuse to work or to accept an offer of suitable work without good cause including instructions for contesting a denial based on a report of refusal to accept suitable work and exceptions to the rule. A state may exercise temporary emergency flexibility in its application of good cause. (UIPL 9-21, December 30, 2020.)