The CARES Act provides expanded unemployment benefits for those individuals affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. These programs work to provide a weekly benefit that is a combination of an individual’s regular weekly unemployment benefit under state law, plus an additional $600 each week through July 31, 2020.

There are three main programs:

  1. Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA)
  2. Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (PUC)
  3. Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC)

Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA)

The PUA provides benefits for those individuals who are left out of the regular state unemployment compensation system or who have exhausted their state benefits under the PUC (see below). The PUA is provided to those individuals who are unemployed, partially unemployed, or unable to work due to COVID-19, including:

  • Independent contractors, or self-employed (gig workers);
  • Individuals without sufficient work history
  • Individuals who have exhausted their regular and any extended UI benefits

To qualify for PUA, individuals must demonstrate that they are otherwise able to work and available for work. Individuals must also establish that their unemployment, partial unemployment, or inability to work is caused by at least one of the following reasons below:

  • You are unable to work because a health care provider advised you to self-quarantine due to concerns related to COVID-19;
  • A member of your household has been diagnosed with COVID-19;
  • You are providing care for a family member or a member of your household who has been diagnosed with COVID-19;
  • A child or other person in the household for whom you have primary caregiving responsibility is unable to attend school or another facility that is closed as a direct result of the COVID-19 and the school or facility care is required for you to work;
  • You became the breadwinner or major support for a household because the head of the household has died as a direct result of COVID-19;
  • You have to quit your job as a direct result of COVID-19;
  • Your place of employment is closed as a direct result of COVID-19;
  • You were scheduled to start a job that is now unavailable as a direct result of the COVID-19 public health emergency;
  • You are unable to reach the place of employment as a direct result of the COVID-19 public health emergency.

If you work as an independent contractor with reportable income, you may also qualify for PUA benefits if you are unemployed, partially employed, or unable or unavailable to work because the COVID-19 public health emergency has severely limited your ability to continue performing your customary work activities, and has thereby forced you to stop working. Benefits will be issued in phases as follows (please note this amount is for CA employees. Please check specific state guidelines for eligibility dollars):

  • Phase 1: $167 per week for each week you were unemployed from February 2, 2020 to March 28, 2020 due to COVID-19 related reason

  • Phase 2: $167 per week plus $600 per week, for each week you were unemployed from March 29, 2020 to July 25, 2020, due to COVID-19 related reason plus the $600

  • Phase 3: $167 per week for each week you were unemployed from July 26, 2020 to December 26, 2020, due to COVID-19 related reasons, up to a total of 39 weeks (minus any weeks of regular UI and certain extended UI benefits that you have received)

Pandemic Unemployment Compensation or Regular Unemployment (PUC)

The PUC provides benefits to those employees eligible for unemployment or partial compensation benefits. Eligibility is determined by state guidelines. Employees who are eligible will receive the benefits determined by the state program, plus the supplemental payment of $600 for every week the worker is unemployed or partially unemployed. In order to qualify for the federal supplement, the employee must qualify for at least $1 of partial unemployment benefits. Eligible employees will also be entitled to Extended Unemployment Compensation benefits under the PUC for up to 39 weeks in most states. The $600 supplemental payment under the PUC will end on July 31, 2020.

Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC)

The Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation Program (PEUC) provides up to 13 weeks of benefits to workers and individuals who have exhausted regular UC under state or federal law, have no rights to regular UC under any other state or federal law, and meet other specific requirements. The benefits extension is available through December 31, 2020.

For additional information, contact your state economic employment development department and local partners who can provide employment assistance. You could be eligible for supportive services funding to help you with basic needs.