Unemployment Insurance Extended Benefit Programs

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During this challenging time, there are additional unemployment benefits available to workers who have lost their jobs. If you have exhausted unemployment benefits or are worried about running out of them, there are enhanced benefits funded by the federal government that will provide unemployment compensation beyond the maximum number of weeks provided by your state. 

The federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES) stimulus bill was signed into law on March 27, 2020. It includes extended unemployment benefits for workers who have been impacted by COVID-19. In addition, the CARES Act includes a temporary supplemental weekly benefit for all recipients. 

Unemployed workers who are collecting state unemployment insurance benefits will receive $600 a week in supplemental benefits through July 31, 2020, and 13 weeks of additional unemployment compensation.

Who Is Eligible for Enhanced Unemployment Benefits?

What benefits will unemployed workers be eligible for? Ordinarily, workers in most states are eligible for 26 weeks of unemployment benefits, although some states provide less coverage. Montana is the only state that provides more with 28 weeks of unemployment benefits. 

In times of high unemployment, the federal government provides funds to the states to expand unemployment insurance programs for additional weeks of benefits beyond what each state offers.

In addition to employees who have traditionally been eligible to collect unemployment insurance compensation, the CARES Act extends benefits to workers who have not qualified for unemployment benefits in the past including independent contractors, self-employed and gig workers, and the long-term unemployed who have exhausted their benefits.

How Many Weeks of Unemployment Benefits Can You Get?

Unemployed workers can now receive a maximum of 39 weeks of unemployment compensation. Those benefits include a combination of unemployment insurance programs including additional weeks of benefits and a supplemental weekly payment.

Basic Unemployment Benefits

Approved claimants will be eligible for either regular state unemployment benefits (for employees) or pandemic unemployment benefits (for self-employed workers and others who don’t qualify for regular benefits).

  • State Unemployment Insurance Benefits (UI) (maximum of 26 weeks in most locations)
  • Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) (maximum of 26 weeks in most locations)

Enhanced Unemployment Benefits

These programs are available for all unemployed workers who are receiving unemployment:

  • Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (PUC)—Additional $600 per week)
  • Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC)—An additional 13 weeks, for a total of 39 weeks of coverage if you have exhausted other benefits

Total Weeks of Unemployment Available: Maximum of 39 weeks, depending on location and eligibility.

CARES Act Expanded Unemployment Programs

In addition to new claimants, workers who were already collecting or have exhausted unemployment insurance are eligible for augmented benefits. 

These benefits include:

  • Unemployment Supplemental Payments
    The CARES Act provides $600 a week in supplemental Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (PUC) for all recipients of unemployment benefits through July 31, 2020. This is in addition to regular state unemployment benefits or pandemic unemployment assistance.
  • Unemployment Extended Benefits
    All states will provide up to 13 additional weeks of federally-funded extended benefits (PEUC) to people who exhaust their UI benefits and are able, available, and actively seeking work, subject to COVID-19-related flexibility. The “actively seeking work” provision can be waived because of COVID-19. PEUC is authorized through December 31, 2020.

Benefits for the Long-Term Unemployed

Your state may provide additional benefits to people who had already exhausted unemployment benefits prior to the CARES Act legislation. In New York, for example, anyone who exhausted UI benefits after July 1, 2019, is eligible to receive 13 additional weeks of benefits. Eligibility requirements vary by state, so be sure to check the FAQ section of your state unemployment websites for details.

How to Collect Extended Unemployment Benefits

How you will collect extended benefits will vary based on your state. In some states, you won’t need to do anything. You will automatically be paid for the additional weeks. In others, you may need to apply.

Check with your state unemployment office for details. You can find a directory of offices on the Department of Labor’s CareerOneStop Unemployment Benefits Finder.

  • If you are currently collecting unemployment benefits:
    Benefits are provided through the state unemployment offices and information on eligibility will be posted online. If you are eligible, you will be advised on how to collect when your regular unemployment benefits end. 
  • If you have exhausted unemployment benefits:
    Long-term unemployed workers who have already exhausted state unemployment benefits may also be eligible for additional weeks of benefits. Check with your state unemployment website for eligibility criteria in your location.

Key Takeaways

More Workers Are Eligible The CARES Act expands eligibility to workers who traditionally wouldn’t be able to collect unemployment benefits.

All Unemployed Workers Will Receive Supplemental Benefits Recipients of unemployment are eligible to receive an extra $600 per week through July 31, 2020.

Extra Weeks of Unemployment Benefits Are Available Check with your state unemployment office for information on how long you can collect unemployment compensation.

Article Sources

  1.  U.S. Department of Labor. "U.S. Department of Labor Announces New Cares Act Guidance On Unemployment Insurance For States In Response To COVID-19 Crisis." Accessed April 8, 2020.

  2. Center on Budget Policy and Priorities. "Policy Basics: How Many Weeks of Unemployment Compensation Are Available?" Accessed April 8, 2020.

  3. Center on Budget Policy and Priorities. "Introduction to Unemployment Insurance." Accessed April 7, 2020.

  4. U.S. Department of Labor. "U.S. Department of Labor Announces New Cares Act Guidance On Unemployment Insurance For States In Response To COVID-19 Crisis." Accessed April 8, 2020.

  5.  U.S. Department of Labor. "U.S. Department of Labor Announces New Cares Act Guidance On Unemployment Insurance For States In Response To COVID-19 Crisis." Accessed April 8, 2020.

  6. U.S. Department of Labor. "Unemployment Insurance Relief During COVID-19 Outbreak." Accessed April 12, 2020.

  7.  The National Law Review. "Expanded Unemployment Insurance Access and Benefits: 4 Key Takeaways From the CARES Act." Accessed April 8, 2020.

  8. U.S. Department of Labor. "Unemployment Insurance Relief During COVID-19 Outbreak." Accessed April 8, 2020.

  9. New York State Department of Labor. "Unemployment Insurance Benefits: Updated FAQs." Page 3. Accessed April 7, 2020.

  10. U.S. Department of Labor. "How Do I File for Unemployment Insurance?" Accessed April 8, 2020.