The Department of Labor Provides a Summary Explanation of Unemployment Benefits under the CARES Act

On March 28, 2020, Florida agreed to participate in the unemployment provisions of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, known as the Relief for Workers Affected by the Coronavirus (RWAC). On April 2, 2020, the Department of Labor issued guidance as well as a chart summarizing the different programs and the length of time the programs will be in effect. We summarize the major highlights for Florida employers below.

Before RWAC, the maximum unemployment benefit for those that would normally qualify for benefits in Florida was $275 a week, paid bi-weekly. Generally, the maximum number of weeks someone can receive benefits is 12 weeks. This 12-week period may be extended if Florida’s unemployment rate increases above 5 percent. If this occurs, an additional week of eligibility is added for every half percent of increase above the 5 percent unemployment rate. Even so, when the additional weeks of eligibility are added to the initial 12 weeks, total benefits are still capped at 23 weeks.

Now, after RWAC and during the COVID-19 public health emergency, the maximum weekly benefits and maximum weeks of available benefits are temporarily increased. For those that would otherwise qualify for benefits, the maximum weekly benefit is a total of $875 a week through July 31, 2020. The first $275 is the normal maximum benefits under Florida’s program. An additional $600 is added through the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) program. For those persons that would not ordinarily qualify for benefits in Florida, the maximum benefit is 50 percent of the average benefit in Florida plus the $600 from FPUC.

In addition, RWAC provides an additional 13 weeks of unemployment beyond what Florida law provides—albeit capped to a total of 39 weeks. This means that in Florida–barring any additional emergency unemployment legislation—the maximum number of weeks in Florida is somewhere between 25 and 36 weeks depending on the unemployment rate.

To further help, we provide portions of the DOL’s chart below. The entire chart can be found on the DOL’s website.

Program and Section Reference from Act
Period of Applicability What It Does
 

Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA)
 

Weeks of unemployment beginning on or after 01/27/20 through 12/31/20
 

Provides for up to 39 weeks of benefits to individuals who are self-employed, seeking part-time employment, or otherwise would not qualify for regular unemployment compensation (UC) or extended benefits under state or federal law or Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (PEUC).

 

Coverage includes individuals who have exhausted all rights to regular UC or extended benefits under state or federal law or PEUC.

 

 

Emergency Unemployment Relief of Governmental Entities and Non-profit Organizations
 

Weeks of unemployment from 03/13/20 through 12/31/20
 

Authorizes the Department to issue guidance to allow states to interpret their state UC laws in a manner that would provide maximum flexibility to reimbursing employers as it relates to timely payment and assessment of penalties and interest.

 

Also provides for transfers to a state’s account in the unemployment trust fund from the Federal Unemployment Account to allow partial reimbursements (generally 50 percent of the amount of payments in lieu of contributions) to state and local governmental entities, certain nonprofit organizations, and federally recognized Indian tribes.

 

 

Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC)
 

Weeks of unemployment beginning after the date of signed agreement through 07/31/20

 

 

Provides individuals who are collecting regular UC, PEUC, PUA, EB, STC, TRA, DUA, and SEA with an additional $600 per week.
 

Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC)

 

 

Weeks of unemployment beginning after the date of signed agreement through 12/31/20

 

 

Provides for up to 13 weeks of benefits to individuals who have exhausted regular UC under state or federal law, have no rights to regular UC under any other state or federal law, are not receiving compensation under the UC laws of Canada, and are able to work, available for work, and actively seeking work. However, states must offer flexibility in meeting the “actively seeking work” requirement if individuals are unable to search for work because of COVID-19, including because of illness, quarantine, or movement restriction.

 

 

Temporary Financing for existing Short-Time Compensation (STC) Programs

 

 

03/27/20 through 12/31/20

 

 

Provides that states with an existing STC program may be reimbursed for 100 percent of STC benefit costs, up to a maximum of 26 weeks of STC per individual.

 

 

Temporary Full Federal Funding of the First Week of Compensable Regular Unemployment

 

 

Weeks of unemployment beginning after the date of signed agreement through 12/31/20

 

 

For states without a waiting week (or those that agree to waive the waiting period), provides 100% federal funding for the total amount of regular UC paid to individuals for their first week of regular UC

 

 

Emergency Unemployment Relief of Governmental Entities and Non-profit Organizations
 

 Weeks of unemployment from 03/13/20 through 12/31/20
 

Authorizes the Department to issue guidance to allow states to interpret their state UC laws in a manner that would provide maximum flexibility to reimbursing employers as it relates to timely payment and assessment of penalties and interest.

 

Also provides for transfers to a state’s account in the unemployment trust fund from the Federal Unemployment Account to allow partial reimbursements (generally 50 percent of the amount of payments in lieu of contributions) to state and local governmental entities, certain nonprofit organizations, and federally recognized Indian tribes.

 

Williams Parker has launched a multidisciplinary task force of lawyers across the firm to advise on issues arising from COVID-19. This team is closely monitoring legal developments and guidance from federal, state, and local government and public health officials. For the latest updates, please visit our website.

Additionally, I’ll be presenting on this and other pandemic-related employment issues at Lakewood Ranch Business Alliance’s virtual seminar tomorrow, Wednesday, April 8. Visit LWRBA for more information and to sign up.