On March 11, 2021, President Biden signed HR 1319, The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARP), a history-making $1.9 trillion economic relief package. The massive bill will bring much welcomed aid to the nation’s individuals, families, small businesses, schools, and state and local governments – all still struggling one year into the coronavirus pandemic. A top priority will be getting the $1400 direct stimulus payments to individuals and the continued support measures to unemployed workers.
The federal unemployment benefits programs, initially implemented under the CARES Act and later reauthorized via the Continued Assistance Act, were set to expire March 14, 2021. Under the newly enacted ARP Act, these benefit programs are now extended until the week ending September 4, 2021, outlined as follows:
- FPUC (Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation) – A federally funded supplement of $300 weekly will continue to be added to state and federal unemployment benefits for weeks beginning March 14 through the week ending September 4, 2021.
- PEUC (Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation) – These additional weeks of federally funded benefits will continue to be provided to eligible individuals who exhaust their traditional state unemployment insurance (UI) benefits.
- PUA (Pandemic Unemployment Assistance) – These federally funded benefits will continue to be provided to individuals who do not qualify for regular state unemployment, such as the self-employed, part-timers, and gig workers.
State UI agencies are already working diligently to reprogram systems to accommodate the new September expiration date in order to minimize any lapse in benefit payments. Many have already posted messaging to their websites and are asking claimants to avoid calling with questions about the new legislation. They encourage individuals to check state UI websites regularly for information and to continue to follow their normal filing/recertifying for weekly benefits.
Additional UI-related provisions in The ARP Act are:
- A tax exclusion of $10,200 for UI benefit income in the 2020 tax year for households with adjusted gross incomes under $150,000
- An extension of the waiver of interest on outstanding loans to states to pay UI benefits
- An extension of the 100% federal reimbursement of regular state extended UI benefits
- An extension of federal funding for the first week of regular unemployment compensation
- An extension of temporary financing of Short-Time Compensation agreements/payments (a.k.a. STC, Shared Work, or Work Share programs)
- An increase in the federal reimbursement amount, from 50% of charges to 75% of charges, to reimbursing employers for weeks beginning after March 31, 2021, through the week ending prior to September 6, 2021
The U.S. Department of Labor is expected to provide guidance to the states to help them administer the changes resulting from The ARP Act. Employers are also encouraged to monitor UI agency websites for new announcements and revised FAQs.
Details about the many provisions contained in The ARP Act – a summary or the complete text – can be found at: https://www.congress.gov/bill/117th-congress/house-bill/1319