Unemployment programs expiring soon

Federal jobless aid could be extended

Two federal unemployment compensation programs will be ending soon, but might be extended as they were in January.

The Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program for the self-employed and the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation program that provides continuing benefits for those whose regular unemployment compensation has run its course will end for most people in mid-March.

Some recipients might get a few additional weeks, according to Department of Labor & Industry spokeswoman Sarah DeSantis.

The federal government continued PUA and PEUC in January with the passage of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act extension.

The department is hoping the feds will extend those programs again as part of the Biden administration’s COVID-19 relief bill that has been approved by the House and is now in the Senate.

The end of the programs for most recipients after the week ending March 13 could hurt about 600,000 PUA claimants and 250,000 PEUC claimants, as well as a much smaller number of claimants on Pennsylvania’s Extended Benefits program, according to DeSantis.

In January, program rules changed significantly, causing a gap between the expiration of the old program and the establishment of the new ones.

“I don’t have an estimate,” she said, when asked how long the gap is likely to be between the upcoming program expirations and the possible renewal of benefits.

The experience in January should be valuable in keeping that transition as short as possible, she said.

With the original CARES Act, PEUC provided 13 weeks of unemployment to people whose regular unemployment compensation had expired. The January extension added 11 more weeks.

Under the original CARES Act, PUA provided unemployment help to self-employed people, including gig workers and others, who had never before been eligible for unemployment compensation.

PUA has been beset by fraud, which has led to some victims receiving 1099 IRS tax forms, due mostly to their identities having been stolen.

Anyone who receives a 1099 without having applied for benefits should go to the L&I website to fill out a fraud claim, DeSantis said.

They can then file their tax returns, stating their real income and ignoring the purported benefits they received, as indicated on that return, she said.

The IRS at some point is likely to contact them about the issue.

Some identity fraud victims have actually received money that was requested by fraudsters. The department has made it clear that victims who got money they didn’t ask for must return it.

The department is continuing to work with law enforcement to combat the fraud, DeSantis said.

Mirror Staff Writer William Kibler is at 949-7038.


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