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What Is Going On With Unemployment

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Overview And Implementation Details

What’s going on with unemployment?

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Federal government acted by passing the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act. As a result, the Massachusetts Department of Unemployment Assistance implemented three new programs: Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation FPUC), Pandemic Unemployment Assistance , and Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation .

The Continuing Assistance to Unemployed Workers Act, effective December 27, 2020, extended benefits under the CARES Act to March 14, 2021, and added a new program, Mixed Earner Unemployment Compensation.

The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 ,signed into law on March 11, 2021, extended benefits under the CARES Act through September 4, 2021, and provided new qualification requirements.

Federal UI benefits, including FPUC, PUA, PEUC, and MEUC ended September 4, 2021. No weeks are payable even if a claimant has a balance or remaining weeks on a claim.

Pandemic Unemployment Assistance

  • Effective 2/2/2020 9/4/2021, PUA provided up to79weeks of benefits to individuals who were self-employed, seeking part-time employment, or otherwise would not qualify for regular unemployment compensation or extended benefits under state or federal law or Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation . Coverage includes individuals who have exhausted all rights to regular UC or extended benefits under state or federal law or PEUC and who are affected by COVID-19.
  • For more information on PUA visit www.mass.gov/PUA

Extended Benefits

How To File An Unemployment Appeal

If you have filed an unemployment benefits claim and your claim is turned down or contested by your employer, you have the right to appeal the denial.

When your claim is denied, you should be provided with the reason for the denial and information on the appeal process.

The information contained in this article is not legal advice and is not a substitute for such advice. State and federal laws change frequently, and the information in this article may not reflect your own states laws or the most recent changes to the law.

Eligibility: Who Qualifies For The Extra $300 Unemployment Benefit

To be eligible for the $300 a week benefit, you need to be receiving unemployment benefits from any of these programs:

  • Unemployment compensation, including regular State Unemployment Compensation, Unemployment Compensation for Federal Employees , and Unemployment Compensation for Ex-Service members
  • Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation
  • Pandemic Unemployment Assistance
  • Mixed Earner Unemployment Compensation
  • Payments under the Self-Employment Assistance program.

Low-wage, part-time or seasonal workers may fail to qualify for the extra $300.

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Types Of Disability Policies

There are two types of disability policies.

  • Short-term policies may pay for up to two years. Most last for a few months to a year.

  • Long-term policies may pay benefits for a few years or until the disability ends.

Employers who offer coverage may provide short-term coverage, long-term coverage, or both.

If you plan to buy your own policy, shop around and ask:

  • How long do benefits last?

  • How much money will the policy pay?

Figure : Weekly Initial Unemployment Insurance Claims

What

From March through the end of July, the federal CARES Act increased unemployment benefits for each recipient by $600 per week. That meant the average UI recipient was paid one-third more in unemployment than she earned while working .

This raised concerns that workers had little incentive to return to work or find a new job, a condition necessary for labor market restructuring and recovery. This additional UI funding expired at the end of July after lawmakers were unable to agree on another round of federal spending. President Trump attempted to provide a $300-dollar weekly top-up by executive order . Whether and when that happens is unclear given that states have to apply for the funding.

UI benefits are financed by a payroll tax on employers. Unlike other taxes, UI tax rates are experience-rated, which means that an employers future tax rate rises if its employees claim UI benefits, and its tax rate falls when the firm avoids layoffs. This gives employers a strong incentive to balance the demand for layoffs with the cost that they impose on the UI system.

One consequence of experience-rating UI taxes is that tax rates increase as the economy begins to recover from recession. This significantly raises the cost of hiring new workers or retaining old ones, likely weighing down recovery of the labor market.

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Biden Emergency Extension To Pandemic Unemployment Benefits

With the rapid spread of and potential economic slowdown from the virulent Delta COVID-19 strain there is now talk of the Biden administration repurposing some of existing ARPA stimulus bill funding to extend pandemic unemployment programs to the end of 2022.

This is similar to the six week LWA extension that President Trump passed by executive order last year when Congress could not initially agree on funding an extension to pandemic unemployment benefits.

If Congress cannot provide additional funding then this will be the most likely path for a short-term emergency extension of pandemic benefits and could be done relatively quickly along party lines, or simply by a Presidential Executive order. White House lawyers are likely already working on this as a possible option.

Note that states which had ceased participation early in the federally funded unemployment programs will need to reapply to get access to this short term extension, if indeed it is passed.

To Extend or Not?

Which States Ended Unemployment Benefits Early?

Following recent job reports that showed a shortage of workers to fill open positions, many Republican led states have now ended federally funded pandemic unemployment programs in order to incentivize workers to return to work. You can see the table below for when states ended one or more of the pandemic unemployment programs early.

States Ending Unemployment Early
$300 FPUC, PUA, PEUC, MEUC

The Status Of Us Jobs

That is to say, a similar decline in workers desire to pursue jobs matters more when there are plenty of jobs to go around, which is increasingly the case as the economy reopens.

In other research on the expanded jobless benefits, Peter Ganong of the University of Chicago Harris School and five co-authors found a smaller decrease in the inclination to search for jobs than earlier research would have predicted. In other words, those $600 weekly supplements didnt decrease employment very much.

But those were circumstances that may no longer apply.

The goal of government should be to get everyone back to work as soon as possible while continuing to provide economic support to workers who have not gone back to work yet, Mr. Ganong said. Those two things were not in tension in 2020, and they are in tension in 2021. All of those things that made 2020 special are receding, so we now face a more traditional set of trade-offs.

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About The Peuc Extension

Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation provided up to 53 additional weeks of payments if youve used all of your available unemployment benefits.

  • The first 13 weeks were available from March 29, 2020 to September 4, 2021. In UI Online, your claim type displays as PEUC.
  • After collecting the first 13 weeks, an additional 11 weeks were available beginning on or after December 27, 2020 to September 4, 2021. Your claim type displays as Extension Tier 2 in UI Online.
  • After collecting the first 24 weeks, an additional 29 weeks were available beginning on or after March 14, 2021 to September 4, 2021. Your claim type displays as Extension Tier 2 in UI Online.

To have qualified for a PEUC extension, your regular UI claim must have started on July 8, 2018, or after.

If you ran out of benefits within your benefit year

  • If you ran out of benefits within your benefit year, we automatically filed your PEUC extension on your regular unemployment claim.
    • If you were collecting on a FED-ED extension, you continued to collect it until it was exhausted. We filed the additional weeks of the PEUC extension after you used all FED-ED benefits.

If your benefit year ended

Other Unemployment Insurance Questions

BREAKING: Millions file for unemployment as stock market soars
I am returning to work. Do I need to do anything to notify the Department of Labor?

If you are returning to work, you do not need to notify the Department at this time. You simply should stop filing your weekly claims. If you file for a week you are fully employed, that is fraudulent activity and you will be denied benefits. If you work and perform work during a week in which you are filing for UI benefits, you must report the hours worked and wages earned.

My claim has been in adjudication for a few weeks now. Is there a timeline for when I will receive a determination?

If your claim is in adjudication, it will be adjudicated in the order it was received.

How do I reset my PIN?

If you need your PIN reset, you may call our supplemental phone line at 888-807-7072.

I was already on unemployment before COVID-19, do I still need to be looking for work?

No. All work search requirements have been waived as result of COVID-19. The Department will notify claimants when work search requirements are reinstated.

My return to work date has passed. I dont know when I will be going back to work, so how do I update that?

At this time, you do not need to update your return to work date. The Department will announce any changes to this process.

Why am I getting SSN not found when filing my weekly claim?

You are likely experiencing SSN not found for one of the following reasons:

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Unemployment When You Quit Your Job

In most cases, if you voluntarily quit your job, you are not eligible for unemployment. However, if you left for good cause, you may be able to collect. What constitutes good cause is determined by your state unemployment office.

However, typically, examples of leaving a job for a good cause include the following:

Illness or emergency. This includes if a family member becomes ill, or if you have an illness and the employer does not accommodate your health problems.

Abusive or unbearable working conditions. This can include sexual harassment or other unbearable situations that have not been resolved by the employer. This might also refer to your being asked to commit acts that are illegal or immoral.

A safety concern. To qualify, your concern needs to be one not related to the nature of your job . This might involve a piece of equipment that has injured you or your coworkers and that the employer has not fixed.

Losing any mode of transportation to work. For example, if you get into an accident and cannot afford to fix your car, this can qualify as good cause. The situation is the same if the public transportation you have to take to work shuts down.

A drastic pay reduction. Typically, if you leave because of a significant pay decrease, you may be considered for unemployment benefits.

Generally, to qualify as leaving for good cause, you have to demonstrate that you tried to resolve the issue by other means before quitting.

Amendment To The American Rescue Plan

A Senate amendment to the American Rescue Plan made $10,200 of unemployment compensation paid in 2020 tax-free at the federal level for anyone earning less than $150,000. If you filed your tax return before March 31, 2021, the IRS automatically made adjustments based on the exemption. State rules differ, so you should review your state return. Click here to see how your state’s rules align with the federal exemption.

If your unemployment insurance benefits are about to end, what happens next? Your options are limited. But if you prepare early, you can lessen the impact when benefits run out. Here are some routes to explore.

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Shoring Up The Trust Funds

The pandemic has shed light on the vulnerability of UI financing. Better maintenance of UI trust funds is vital to prepare states for the next economic downturn and improve prospects for future recoveries.

There is a large and growing gap in UI tax costs across jurisdictions. States like California and Florida have a low maximum tax rate and an annual tax base of around $7,000 the lowest allowed by federal law resulting in maximum potential UI taxes of about $400 per worker. In contrast, states like Washington and Oregon maintain large tax bases resulting in potential UI taxes of more than $2,000 per worker.

In good times, states store revenues from UI taxes in a trust fund and that fund is drawn down in the depth of recessions. In recent years, however, state trust funds have been low even in good times a function of benefits that are more generous than their financing . The Department of Labors 2020 Solvency Report shows that despite a 10-year economic expansion, 21 state UI trust funds were below the minimum recommended reserve, just prior to the pandemic . As of August 2020, 11 states have already depleted their UI trust funds and have started to receive loans from the federal government to pay UI benefits.

But the latter worker is eligible for a weekly UI benefit that is five times larger . Expanding the UI programs taxable wage base in states like California would reduce the implicit penalty on hiring low-wage earners .

How To Measure Unemployment

TEXAS UNEMPLOYMENT, WHAT IS GOING ON?

In the United States, the government uses surveys, census counts, and the number of unemployment insurance claims to track unemployment.

The U.S. Census conducts a monthly survey on behalf of the Bureau of Labor Statistics called the Current Population Survey in order to produce the primary estimate of the nations unemployment rate. This survey has been done every month since 1940. The sample consists of about 60,000 eligible households, translating to about 110,000 people each month. It changes one-fourth of the households each month in the sample so that no household is represented for more than four consecutive months in order to strengthen the reliability of the estimates.

Many variations of the unemployment rate exist with different definitions concerning who is an unemployed person and who is in the labor force. The BLS commonly cites the U-3 unemployment rate as the official unemployment rate. However, this definition does not include discouraged unemployed workers who are no longer looking for work. Other categories of unemployment include discouraged workers and part-time or underemployed workers who want to work full-time but, for economic reasons, are unable to do so.

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State Specific Unemployment Resource And News Pages

Minnesota

President Trump sent a lump of coal to jobless and underemployed Americans for Christmas by refusing to pass the COVID stimulus bill that had passed in Congress after lengthy negotiations, which contained the unemployment program extensions and funding for a second round of stimulus payments . This means that Congress will have to now go back in session to pass the bill again with a presidential approval override.

Bottom line as discussed in this UI stimulus update video is that there will be a delay in payments and a likely lapse in benefits as the PUA and PEUC programs expired on December 26th. New payments under the $300 FPUC and $600 stimulus will now only start in 2021 with people having to rely on retroactive back payments for their benefits.

Congressional leaders have passed a circa $900 billion stimulus plan that includes funding for an approximately 11 week extension to federal pandemic programs and additional supplementary unemployment benefits at $300 FPUC per week for millions of unemployed or underemployed Americans who lost their job or income due to COVID.

You can see the latest around this and FAQs around how this will be paid in this regularly updated $300 UI payment article or via this video. This covers when these payments will be paid, retroactive payments and coverage periods.

$908 Billion Interim Stimulus Package and UI Benefits Extension

What Can You Do To Ensure Youre Getting What Youre Owed

The huge influx of recent unemployment claims were partly caused by the number of people who qualify under this years unique circumstances but who wouldnt under normal circumstances.

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act extends unemployment benefits to many who didnt previously qualify. Independent contractors, freelancers, gig workers, and the self-employed may be eligible for payments through the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program, established by the CARES Act. Since these types of workers dont pay state unemployment insurance taxes and they dont have employers who pay into the unemployment system, they arent normally eligible for unemployment benefits.

But how you apply for PUA benefits isnt the same across the board. Different states have different procedures and rules on who qualifies for benefits, says Daniel Kalish, managing partner at the national employment law firm HKM Employment Attorneys. The stimulus package included language saying states should be more lenient with who gets extra benefits, but didnt spell out exactly how, says Kalish.

Because there is so much confusion right now surrounding qualification, Kalish has this straightforward advice: If you have had any reduction of your take-home compensation at all, you should apply for unemployment benefits, even if youre unsure whether you qualify. As long as you are honest in your application, there is no negative repercussion for applying. All they can say is no, he says.

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How Long Will The $300 Unemployment Benefits Last

The $300 federal benefits will continue through Sept. 6, 2021. Though the way Congress is printing money for COVID-19 relief, another extension is not out of the question.

Ironically, Sept. 6 is Labor Day. Eighteen months after COVID-19 started wreaking havoc on the U.S. labor force, will it be time to get back to work?

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