L&I preparing for federal pandemic unemployment extensions

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FILE – In this July 15, 2020, file photo, job seekers exercise social distancing as they wait to be called into the Heartland Workforce Solutions office in Omaha, Neb. A second round of relief is poised to affect the finances of millions of Americans as soon as the end of this year. The $900 billion package includes $600 one-time checks for those earning under $75,000 — half of what people received from the original pandemic relief package, known as the CARES Act. For unemployed Americans, $300 of supplemental unemployment insurance will top other unemployment benefits for 11 weeks. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik, File)

HARRISBURG, Pa. (WTAJ) — Department of Labor & Industry (L&I) Acting Secretary Jennifer Berrier announced Monday that Pennsylvania is preparing for the new CARES Act extensions for the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) and Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) programs while cautioning that delays by the federal government in approving the legislation will cause a gap in these benefits for more than 509,000 workers in the commonwealth.

“The CARES Act extensions will ensure Pennsylvania workers who have been affected by the global economic downturn caused by COVID-19 will continue to receive the unemployment support they desperately need for themselves and their families,” said Berrier. “L&I began reviewing the legislation last week when it was first unveiled and will resume making payments for the PUA and PEUC programs as soon as we get approval from the federal Department of Labor (DOL) to move forward.”

The PUA and PEUC programs, which expired last week, received extensions under the new legislation. PUA assists workers who lost their jobs due to COVID-19 who are not eligible for other unemployment compensation programs. PEUC provides additional weeks of benefits to workers who have exhausted their Unemployment Compensation benefits. Together, these programs provided payments to more than half a million Pennsylvanians.

An additional program, Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC), will provide eligible claimants with $300 per week on top of the weekly benefit amount he or she receives from certain other unemployment programs. FPUC previously provided $600 per week additional payments until the program ended in July.

While L&I has already begun reviewing the legislation and working with its unemployment system vendor to make programmatic changes to accommodate the extensions, L&I must receive guidance and approval from the U.S. Department of Labor (US DOL) before it can resume issuing payments through PUA, PEUC, and FPUC.

Several weeks may pass before US DOL issues all the guidance needed for payments to resume for the CARES Act programs. Pennsylvanians are encouraged to seek other forms of assistance during the interim.

“We know Pennsylvania workers are relying on these programs to pay for essential needs so we are doing everything we can to begin resuming payments as quickly as we can after we receive more information from US DOL,” added Berrier. “We strongly encourage these Pennsylvanians to apply for other forms of benefits that can help them while we wait on the federal government to provide us with the guidance and permission we need to begin implementing the extensions.”

L&I encourages PUA and PEUC claimants to review the following resources for eligibility and apply immediately if they qualify:

PUA and PEUC claimants are also encouraged to use the United Way of Pennsylvania’s 211 program to identify local resources, including food banks, housing assistance, and utility help. Claimants can review available programs in their ZIP code by visiting pa211.org, by texting their ZIP code to 898-211, or by calling 211 any time. For updates on the unemployment program, visit www.uc.pa.gov.

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