Department of Labor updates unemployment guidance, up to an extra $300 possible each week

National Coronavirus Coverage

WASHINGTON, D.C. (WRIC) — The U.S. Department of Labor provided states with updated guidance on how to implement two unemployment insurance programs which will issue supplemented unemployment benefits.

Under the new COVID-19 relief bill, which President Donald Trump signed into law on Dec. 27, 2020, the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) has been reauthorized. In addition, another program, the Mixed Earner Unemployment Compensation (MEUC), was created.

The reauthorized FPUC will provide $300 per week those who are unemployed, starting with the week after Dec. 26, 2020. This is a reduced amount, since the first round of the FPUC, which expired in July 2020, provided $600 per week.

The MEUC was created to support those who earn their income as both a wage earner and as a self-employed individual.

The new program, which states have the option to participate in, will give an extra $100 per week to unemployed individuals who made at least $5,000 as their own employer in the most recent taxable year. Anyone receiving the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance will not be eligible for this program.

The Virginia Employment Commission (VEC) said in an update Wednesday they are waiting on more guidance from the federal level on MEUC.

Both programs will run out on March 13.

“Although Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation and Mixed Earner Unemployment Compensation will both help alleviate the burden many unemployed workers continue to face, we need to be clear it is unlikely that eligible claimants will immediately begin seeing these benefits,” said Assistant Secretary of Labor for Employment and Training John Pallasch. “Any time Congress creates a new program such as MEUC, the states must work with the Department to ensure they are standing up and operating the new program with integrity. To this end, the Department stands ready to help states implement them in a rapid manner to ensure the timely payment of benefits.”

In Wednesday’s update, VEC also said the CARES Act unemployment compensation programs will be extended for 11 weeks.

If you were receiving the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) and did not exhaust the 13 weeks of PEUC benefits, you will be allowed to claim additional weeks. VEC said it is working on programming its system to allow for that change. The target date for that to be implemented is Jan. 8.

If you were receiving PEUC and exhausted the original 13 weeks of benefits, you will be considered for an additional 11 weeks of PEUC benefits. The first payable week would be for the week ending on Jan. 2. The target date for implementation is to be determined.

If you were receiving the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) and did not exhaust the 39 weeks of PUA benefits, you will be allowed to claim additional weeks. VEC is working on programming its system to allow for that change as well. The target date for implementation is Jan. 14.

If you were receiving PUA and exhausted the original 39 weeks, you will be considered for an additional 11 weeks of PUA benefits under the new legislation. The first payable week would be for the week ending Jan. 2. The target date for implementation is to be determined.

There are some new changes to the PUA application, according to VEC. PUA claimants will need to provide proof of employment or self-employment. Also, state agencies will implement procedures to verify and validate the identity of PUA claimants.

Desha Harris left her job because of COVID-19 last year. She said there was an issue with her unemployment claim and she has been trying to get it sorted out with VEC for months.

“The numbers that you try to call, you can never get ahold of someone,” Harris told 8News.

Even with the new benefits on the way, Harris is still left waiting.

“It’s frustrating because you see everyone else that’s going to get it, so it’s frustrating,” said Harris.

A spokesperson for VEC said Wednesday they are encouraging everyone to check the website for updates each Wednesday at 2 p.m. They are also sending out text messages several times per day.

VEC will provide a new update on its website on Jan. 13 at 2 p.m.

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