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Just days before the expiration of the $600 per week Unemployment Insurance (UI) plus up, the Senate Finance Committee released the American Workers, Families, and Employers Assistance Act, which is the economic assistance portion of the larger GOP bill, the Heath, Economic Assistance, Liability Protection and Schools (HEALS) Act. Here is what is proposed in the finance committee’s portion of the fourth stimulus package:
- The Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) payment will be reduced from $600 per week to $200 per week through September 2020.
- Beginning in October 2020, FPUC payments will transition into a percentage-based amount. When coupled with regular state UI benefits, the total will equal 70% of the claimant’s previous base period earnings.
- State systems that are unable to calculate the percentage-based benefit can ask the Secretary of Labor to continue funding a $200 per week FPUC payments for 2 months from October 5.
- Starting October 2020, FPUC payments will be considered as income when an individual is applying for federal low-income programs such as SNAP and Medicaid.
The GOP version also makes changes to Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) benefits for individuals who do not typically qualify for regular UI. Under the proposal, individuals who apply for PUA must show proof of employment, self-employment, or plans to begin unemployment that were disrupted due to the pandemic. In addition, applicants must also document wages earned during their previous employment. Individuals who have already been awarded PUA benefits must submit this documentation within 90 days of the passage of the bill. Lastly, individuals who are denied PUA will be able to appeal determinations and redeterminations.
Finally, the bill will provide $2 billion to assist states in upgrading their UI systems. In the early stages of the pandemic, UI systems crashed due to technological problems and the simple inability to handle the unprecedented number of claims and implement new programs like PUA and FPUC. This money will bolster states’ systems so that claims are processed quickly, reducing—and hopefully avoiding—individuals having to go weeks without payment.
Tough negotiations over the FPUC payments are anticipated. Check back here to see the latest Phase IV developments.