The CARES Act in March 2020 was passed with record speed, but #Coronavirus has outlasted many of those benefits. Specifically the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) which was a $600 per week benefit paid to the millions on unemployment that expired on July 31, 2020.
Congress has failed to replicate that haste this summer - with negotiations that have gone nowhere. With no relief for Americans, the President stepped in with an Executive Order to states to repurpose FEMA funds ($300 per week) and add $100 per week in state funds to supplement unemployment. While this made national headlines, it’s questionable how quickly Americans will be receiving this assistance - if at all.
When the President signed the order mandating additional unemployment assistance, it sounded like relief was on its way. Unfortunately, depending on who you are, and what you do for a living, you might not qualify to receive it. The forlorn reality of the plan is that thousands of deserving Americans, and arguably the most in-need, may be left out of the equation including low-wage earners, part-time workers, and some self-employed and gig workers.
There is a fair amount of ambiguity and discontent regarding the order’s implementation and criteria, as states are left up to their own discretion whether or not to apply for the federal funds.
The Executive Order defines “eligible claimants” to be any worker who receives a minimum of $100 per week in unemployment compensation. And while the calculation of your unemployment varies state-by-state, the benefit is a fraction of what the person was earning. This blocks thousands of low wage Americans who do not meet this threshold. It also may deny part-time workers, self-employed, and gig workers.
Another criteria requires the claimant to verify that their lost wages are directly caused by COVID-19. Under the CARES Act, the FPUC benefit was available to everyone receiving unemployment, not only those who received benefits because of a COVID-19-related disruption.
The benefit appears to be available “while supplies last." The federal funds are only to be provided as long as the Disaster Relief Fund contains at least $25 billion funding OR until December 6, 2020. Whichever occurs first. Experts expect the benefit to last approximately 5 weeks, but according to the latest guidance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), unemployed individuals are only guaranteed the extra $300 for 3 weeks. After that, any extra funds will be decided on a weekly basis.