CARES Act: Understanding the temporary Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program

Expanded unemployment benefits include a temporary pandemic unemployment assistance program for those not traditionally eligible for unemployment benefits, including self-employed, independent contractors, gig economy workers, and freelancers.

The traditional one-week waiting period is waived.

Individuals are not eligible for benefits if they have the ability to telework with pay or are receiving paid sick leave or other paid leave benefits.

The CARES Act states that a “covered individual” includes anyone who self-certifies they are able and available to work but is unemployed or partially unemployed due to any of the following:

  • An employee diagnosed with COVID-19.
  • An employee experiencing symptom of COVID-19 and seeking a medical diagnosis.
  • An employee who is unable to work because a health care provider has advised the individual to self-quarantine due to COVID-19 concerns.
  • An employee who is unable to reach the place of employment because of a quarantine imposed as a direct result of COVID-19.
  • An employee who has a member of the household who has been diagnosed with COVID-19.
  • An employee whose place of employment is closed as a direct result of COVID-19.
  • An employee providing care for a family member or household member who has been diagnosed with COVID-19.
  • An employee who is the primary caregiver for a child or other person in the household who is unable to attend school or another facility as a direct result of COVID-19.
  • A person who was scheduled to commence employment and does not have a job or is unable to reach the job as a direct result of COVID-19.
  • The individual who has become the primary support for a household because the head of household has died as a direct result of COVID-19.
  • A former employee who has to quit their job as a direct result of COVID-19.

The CARES Act provides $600 per week for up to four months plus what states pay as a base unemployment payment. Funding will be provided to states that pay recipients as soon as they become unemployed instead of waiting one week to receive benefits.

There will be an additional 13 weeks of unemployment benefits to help those who remain unemployed after their state benefits are no longer available.

Finally, businesses will receive funding to support “short-time compensation” programs, whereby employers reduce employee hours instead of laying employees off and employees with reduced hours will receive a pro-rated unemployment benefit. Funding will also be provided to states which begin “short-time compensation” programs. This provision would pay 50% of the costs that a state incurs providing short-term compensation.

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