Blanchard & Walker Weekly

Topic of the Week  COVID-19 Unemployment Insurance Benefits Changes

  • What guidance has the government issued for UI benefits?
  • What is the CARES Act?

What guidance has the government issued for UI benefits?

U.S. Department of Labor issued a guidance clarifying what measures states can take to improve access to unemployment insurance (UI) for workers who lose their jobs or are temporarily separated from work due to the coronavirus. Some measures include:

  • An employer temporarily ceases operations due to COVID-19, preventing employees from coming to work;
  • An individual is quarantined with the expectation of returning to work after the quarantine is over; and
  • An individual leaves employment due to a risk of exposure or infection or to care for a family member.
  • The program was expanded to include freelancers, furloughed employees and gig workers, such as Uber drivers.
  • An employee is not required to quit in order to receive benefits due to the impact of COVID-19.
  • UI benefits that would expand unemployment insurance by 13 weeks and include a 4-month enhancement of benefits -- an additional $600 per week - on top of what state unemployment programs pay; in total unemployed workers are eligible to receive up to 39 weeks of unemployment benefits.
What is the CARES Act?

The federal CARES Act was signed into law March 27, 2020. The Act provides enhanced Unemployment Insurance (UI) benefits and Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) for individuals.

The program provides $250 billion for an extended unemployment insurance program and expands eligibility and offers workers an additional $600 per week for four months, on top of what state programs pay. It also extends UI benefits through Dec. 31 for eligible workers. The deal applies to the self-employed, independent contractors and gig economy workers.

The CARES Act creates three new UI programs: Pandemic Unemployment Compensation, Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation, and Pandemic Unemployment Assistance. All three programs are fully federally funded. 

Thought of the Week

"Ultimately, all workers deserve basic rights and protections. Indeed, the long-term strategy to protect public health, mitigate the risks of future outbreaks, and ensure that the eventual recovery benefits most Americans needs to fix structural problems in the economy and society—and ensure that workers benefit more from growth than they did in the pre-coronavirus economy. Permanent reforms that protect worker rights and increase worker power would create an economy more resilient to challenges such as COVID-19 and are necessary in its aftermath."

–David Madland, Sarah Jane Glynn, Jacob Leibenluft, and Simon Workman

Weekly Comic by Jerry King

Weekly Comic by Jerry King

Blog of the Week

Top Five News Headlines

    List of the Week

    from The Pew Research Center

    Unemployment Statistics from 11,537 panelists

    • 33% say they or someone in their household has lost their job or suffered a pay cut or reduction in work hours because of the coronavirus.
    • 20% say they, or someone in their household, have been laid off or lost a job because of the coronavirus.
    • 27% say a member of their household has experienced a pay cut or a reduction in work hours.

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