Extra unemployment benefits won’t be available to some workers for weeks
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The programs include Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, for self-employed, gig and other workers who don’t qualify for state benefits, and Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation, for those who deplete their standard allotment of state aid.
The programs, created by the CARES Act, lapsed the day after Christmas. The new $900 billion relief law extended them to mid-March (and into April for some people).
Virginia officials plan to re-start aid on Jan. 29 for people who’d exhausted these benefits, according to an update posted Wednesday on the state Employment Commission website.
Meanwhile, the state began disbursing funds last week to workers who hadn’t yet run out of their initial allotment of PEUC, and will do so Thursday for those who hadn’t maxed out PUA benefits.
Oklahoma is also issuing funds in phases. People who’d maxed out their benefits will be among the last to receive fresh assistance, likely around Jan. 24, according to the state’s Employment Security Commission. The state also aims to start paying a $300 federal supplement to benefits on that date.
By Friday, the state had already issued benefits to about 35,000 people who hadn’t maxed out, the Commission said.
“We identified these claim types as ones that could be paid out with the guidance we have on hand and did not want to hold these benefits back to wait on other updates needed,” Shelley Zumwalt, the agency’s executive director, said.
In Texas, there are roughly 68,000 people who exhausted benefits between October and December, according to Cisco Gamez, a spokesman for the state Workforce Commission, which is also issuing benefits in phases.
Such workers require additional attention since some will have returned to work and may not be unemployed, he said.
“We hope to have these claims updated in the coming weeks,” Gamez said. “And this is really a major priority, to get those individuals transitioned over that are eligible.”
Meanwhile, the agency has already modified more than 1.1 million current active benefit claims so workers can start receiving extended benefits.
Delays and tech quirks are creating a confusing scenario for some workers. Many have reported seeing a $0 entitlement in their online benefit portals despite being eligible for another 11 weeks of unemployment aid.
“If you exhausted your benefits and have a $0 balance, the department is waiting for guidelines and funding from U.S. Department of Labor, and there is nothing more for you to do at this time,” according to guidance on the New Mexico Department of Workforce Solutions website. “The department will provide further information on next steps as soon as it is available.”
The U.S. Labor Department has issued all necessary guidance to states on implementing major provisions in the Continued Assistance to Unemployed Workers Act, according to an agency spokesperson, who spoke on condition of background. The last one was posted on Friday.
“All of these programs require some computer programming on our end and require us to go through a lot of guidance documents from the U.S. Department of Labor,” Amy Cubbage, general counsel for the Kentucky governor’s office, said during a press briefing on Friday.
“Once we get all of that guidance and analyze [it], we can get the computer programming done and process those benefits and get it out to people who we know are hurting,” she said.