President Trump signed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act into law on March 27, 2020. Title II, Section A of the CARES Act, titled the “Relief for Workers Affected by Coronavirus Act (RWACA),” provides for a significant expansion of unemployment insurance benefits for persons out of work due to the COVID-19 crisis. Major aspects of the RWACA are described below.
Section 2101 of the RWACA creates a temporary Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program effective from January 27, 2020 to December 31, 2020, which covers individuals out of work who would not otherwise be eligible for unemployment insurance benefits (e.g., self-employed individuals, independent contractors, gig workers and persons with an insufficient work history) who are unable to work as a direct result of the COVID-19 crisis. Persons covered under PUA will be eligible for unemployment benefits as long as they can self-certify that they are unemployed, partially unemployed, or unable or unavailable to work because:
Individuals who are able to telework with pay or are receiving paid sick leave or other paid leave benefits are ineligible for assistance under PUA.
Section 2104 of the RWACA provides for an additional payment of $600 per week in unemployment insurance benefits to all recipients of unemployment insurance, including those covered under PUA, through July 31, 2020. The $600 payment is on top of any unemployment benefits an unemployed worker might otherwise be entitled to under federal or state law. In some cases, the combination of regular unemployment benefits and the additional $600 in Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation may exceed an individual’s weekly wage while working.
Section 2105 of the RWACA creates funding to fully reimburse states that provide unemployment benefits for the first week of unemployment without a one-week waiting period through December 31, 2020. New York State had eliminated its one-week waiting period before enactment of the RWACA.
Section 2107 of the RWACA provides an additional 13 weeks of unemployment benefits, through December 31, 2020, to individuals who otherwise would be ineligible for benefits because they have exhausted the rights to regular unemployment compensation under applicable federal or state law.
Section 2103 of the RWACA establishes a program for the U.S. Department of the Treasury to pay states to reimburse nonprofits, governmental entities and Indian tribes for half the cost they incur to pay unemployment benefits through December 31, 2020.
For further assistance, please contact a member of the Labor & Employment Practice Team, the Phillips Lytle attorney with whom you have a relationship, or any other Phillips Lytle attorney who can assist you during these times of uncertainty.