What Unemployment Benefits Are in the Bipartisan Plan for Coronavirus Relief?

What Unemployment Benefits Are in the Bipartisan Plan for Coronavirus Relief?

Here is a review of the estimated $180 billion in unemployment benefit policies included in one bill.

Earlier this month, a bipartisan group of senators and representatives released a broad $908 billion framework for extending coronavirus relief. That framework has become central to possible additional coronavirus relief legislation, which congressional leaders are discussing today and Congress could consider in the coming days. Yesterday, the bipartisan group released detailed legislative language for what are now two separate bills that reflect the policies in their original framework. Below is a review of the estimated $180 billion in unemployment benefit policies included in one of those bills, called the “Bipartisan COVID-19 Emergency Relief Act of 2020”:

Revival of federal bonus payments at $300 per week

  • Revives at $300 per week the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) program. Payments would start with the week ending January 2, 2021 and be payable during the 16-week period through the week ending April 17, 2021. FPUC, which expired in late July, previously made $600-per-week federal supplemental payments to all recipients of state unemployment insurance (UI) and federal unemployment benefits.

  • Clarifies that, in contrast with the description at a recent press conference, the $300 payments would not be payable retroactively (that is, for any week prior to the week ending January 2, 2021).

  • Includes a technical amendment ensuring $300 payments are made to recipients of short-time compensation.  

Extension and expansion of federal extended benefit programs

  • Extends the operation of the federal Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) program beyond its current December 26, 2020 expiration date for the 16 weeks through the week ending April 17, 2020.

  • Adds 16 weeks of PEUC benefits per person to the current maximum of 13 weeks, for a new maximum of 29 weeks per person. That total would be payable in all states regardless of the state’s current unemployment rate or the number of weeks of state UI the individual previously collected.

  • Also extends current full federal funding of the normally 50-percent state-funded Extended Benefits (EB) program, which pays up to 20 weeks of additional extended benefits depending on state unemployment rates.

  • These extensions mean that in certain states total unemployment benefits payable per person could reach 75 weeks — up to 26 weeks of state UI, 29 weeks of PEUC, and up to 20 weeks of EB.

Extension and expansion of the federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program

  • Extends the operation of the PUA program beyond its current December 26, 2020 expiration date for 16 weeks through the week ending April 17, 2020.

  • Adds 16 weeks of PUA benefits per person, for a new maximum of 55 weeks per person.

  • Adds authority for states to waive recovery of PUA overpayments if the recipient was “without fault” and repayment would be “contrary to equity and good conscience.”

  • Requires PUA recipients to submit documentation of prior employment. This resembles a policy in the July Senate Republican HEALS Act, except that this requirement would apply only to new applicants for PUA and the Secretary of Labor could waive it “to provide state administrative flexibility.”

Additional administrative funding

  • Provides all states with a share of $1 billion in federal funds for use in improving the administration of unemployment benefits, including to prevent and reduce fraud, modernize technology, and increase the system’s ability to handle a surge in claims, among other goals. State shares would be equivalent to their share of national wages subject to federal unemployment taxes.  

Extension of other expiring policies and programs

  • Provides a 16-week extension of other policies and programs expiring on December 26, 2020, including interest-free treatment on federal loans, full federal funding of the first week of state UI, federal funding for short-time compensation programs, relief for government and nonprofit entities, and state staffing flexibility.

  • Extends enhanced and extended railroad unemployment benefits.

This article first appeared on the American Enterprise Institute blog.

Image: Reuters