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Regulation and Compliance > Federal Regulation > DOL

DOL Expands Eligibility for Pandemic Unemployment Benefits

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What You Need to Know

  • Three new categories of workers have been added.
  • The new eligibility is retroactive.
  • Expanded eligibility will not likely be available until the end of March.

Responding to a directive by President Joe Biden, the Labor Department Thursday released guidance to state unemployment insurance agencies that expands the number of instances in which workers may be eligible for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance.

The new guidance expands eligibility to:

  • Workers receiving unemployment benefits who had their continued regular unemployment benefits’ claims denied after they refused to work or accept an offer of work at a worksite not in compliance with coronavirus health and safety standards.
  • Workers laid off, or who have had their work hours reduced, as a direct result of the pandemic.
  • School employees working without a contract or reasonable assurance of continued employment who face reduced paychecks and no assurance of continued pay when schools are closed due to coronavirus.

“Our nation cannot afford to continue compounding the already-devastating effects of the ongoing pandemic-related economic crisis by leaving workers destitute and living in fear for their health and their lives,” said Patricia Smith, senior advisor to the secretary of labor, in a statement. “Today’s guidance opens the door to relief for workers who have faced difficult, if not impossible, choices between accepting employment in an unsafe workplace to receive a steady source of income, and protecting their health and that of their loved ones.”

The new coronavirus-related reasons are retroactive — applying as if they had been included from the beginning of the PUA program, Labor explained.

“However, individuals filing their first initial PUA claim after Dec. 27, 2020, are limited to weeks of unemployment beginning on or after Dec. 6, 2020.”

Individuals must self-certify that they are unemployed, Labor explained, or unable or unavailable to work because of identified coronavirus-related reasons during the applicable time period.

Labor anticipates that the earliest the expanded eligibility will be available is the end of March.

“Those who are eligible, however, should be able to receive the benefits paid retroactive to their date of eligibility,” Labor said.

Pictured: Labor Department building in Washington. (Photo: Mike Scarcella/ALM)


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