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The CARES Act signed into law on March 27 is aimed at providing relief in a wide range of areas in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Here's what the package offers related to unemployment benefits.

{Editor's note: APTA welcomes comments and questions posted to PT in Motion News stories, but we cannot answer individual questions about unemployment benefits. Please visit the links listed at the bottom of this story to find answers to your questions about current unemployment provisions.]

 The recently enacted CARES Act aimed at providing relief during the COVID-19 pandemic contains some important provisions related to unemployment that include relaxing some of the qualifications to receive benefits, allowing for circumstances specifically related to the pandemic, and adding $600 to weekly benefit checks.

Called the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Program, the new provisions allow for financial assistance to individuals who wouldn't ordinarily receive unemployment benefits, such as the self-employed, independent contractors, part-time workers, and those who have already finished their unemployment benefits. This new offering is effective January 27 through December 31, 2020.

To receive the benefit, individuals in categories that normally wouldn't qualify for benefits must prove that they can no longer work due to activity related to COVID-19. Examples include:

  • Diagnosis of COVID-19, a COVID-19 diagnosis of a member of the household, or providing care for a member of the household who has been diagnosed with COVID-19.
  • Primary caregiving responsibility for a family member who is unable to attend school or another facility that has been closed due to the national emergency.
  • Inability to work because of a quarantine imposed by the national emergency or self-quarantine advised by a health care provider.
  • Inability to begin recently gained employment or being forced to end employment as a direct result of the national emergency.

In addition to the expanded range of individuals who may qualify for unemployment benefits, the program adds $600 per week to regular unemployment benefits for up to 39 weeks. The additional money will be provided to everyone receiving unemployment benefits.

Individuals able to telework or receive paid sick leave are ineligible for the program. If a state has a defined workshare program or short-time compensation, the CARES Act provides additional funding to keep employees working on a reduced-hours schedule and receive prorated unemployment benefits.

For more information visit the U.S. Department of Labor website, which includes an unemployment benefits finder by state and information on unemployment insurance relief during the COVID-19 pandemic.


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