Stephanie Ferguson Stephanie Ferguson
Director, Global Employment Policy & Special Initiatives, U.S. Chamber of Commerce


December 15, 2020


Earlier this week, a bipartisan, bicameral group of lawmakers came together to release the highly anticipated Emergency Coronavirus Relief Act of 2020. The 500-page legislation comes at a time when 19 million Americans are continuing to file unemployment insurance (UI) claims and roughly 12 million face entering the new year without any financial support. In addition to providing assistance to displaced workers, the bill addresses airline workers, childcare providers, renters, students, small businesses, and more.

The legislation specifically makes changes to the following three programs:

Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA)

PUA is UI for individuals who normally do not qualify for regular state UI.

  • The program would be extended until April 19, 2021
  • The duration of benefits would be extended from 39 weeks to 55 weeks
  • Individuals who received PUA overpayment through no fault of their own may be eligible for a waiver to repay benefits
  • PUA eligibility would require proof of employment or self-employment

Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC)

PEUC provides 13 additional weeks of UI for individuals who have exhausted regular state UI benefits

  • The program would be extended until April 19, 2021
  • The duration of benefits would be extended from 13 weeks to 29 weeks

Federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (FPUC)

FPUC is a supplemental, federally funded UI program. It was more commonly known as the $600 per week top up.

  • FPUC would provide an extra $300 per week for any individual collecting at least $1 dollar of UI from December 26, 2020 to April 19, 2021

The legislation would also extend interest free borrowing of Title XII loans through April 19, 2021. While an extension through 2021 would have been ideal, the Chamber applauds Congress for ensuring states can continue to pay out UI benefits without businesses facing staggering increases in UI taxes.

The bipartisan framework has not won over everyone. President Trump, along with Senators Hawley and Sanders, have advocated for another round of stimulus checks. The White House proposed its own $916 billion relief framework last week that included direct payments rather than reinstating FPUC, but the proposal has failed to gain any traction. Despite the criticism, Speaker McConnell urged the senate to “get this done” shortly after the legislation was revealed. Conversely, Speaker Pelosi has yet to throw her weight behind the bill, but she reportedly discussed the legislation with leadership Tuesday afternoon. Hopefully their conversations result in something positive before Congress adjourns for Christmas.

About the authors

Stephanie Ferguson

Stephanie Ferguson

Stephanie Ferguson is the Director of Global Employment Policy & Special Initiatives. Her work on the labor shortage has been cited in the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, and Associated Press.

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