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District of Columbia Expects to Begin Distributing Additional Unemployment Benefits in January

Thursday, December 31, 2020
Recently signed federal legislation extends CARES Act programs

(WASHINGTON, DC) – The Department of Employment Services (DOES) is currently reviewing the unemployment provisions of the Continued Assistance Act, the new federal coronavirus relief package that was signed on December 27, which modifies and extends unemployment benefits under the Coronavirus Aid Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act.  

“The extension of the CARES Act benefit programs will provide continued and, in some cases, additional funds to tens of thousands of District workers who are fighting to stay afloat,” said DOES Director Dr. Unique Morris-Hughes. “While we await additional guidance from the U.S. Department of Labor on how to implement the CARES Act extensions, DOES will be ready to act.” The new law increases the availability of unemployment insurance benefits for those that are self-employed, contract workers, those ineligible for state unemployment benefits or have exhausted benefits. The act also includes new requirements to qualify for benefits under the outlined federal programs.

The Department of Labor has indicated that there will not be a gap in benefit weeks. Claimants should continue to file weekly certifications, even though the additional benefits in the new legislation are not yet available. Eligible payments will be made retroactively. District workers are eligible to receive an expansion of UI benefits through these unemployment benefits programs:

Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) – PUA covers individuals who are not eligible for regular UI benefits. This includes self-employed individuals, independent contractors, and gig economy workers.

Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) – PEUC covers individuals who have recently exhausted all rights to regular UI under state or federal law.

Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) – FPUC covers individuals currently receiving regular UI or PUA, and individuals eligible under PEUC. In addition to regular UI or PUA benefits, eligible individuals will receive an additional $300 per week.

Question: How do I know if I should apply for “regular” UI benefits or PUA?

Answer: You must file for regular UI benefits before completing the PUA application. If you are eligible for regular UI, then that is the benefit you will receive. PUA is only available to individuals that are ineligible for regular UI.

Question: I’m filing my first PUA application after December 26, 2020. Can my claim be backdated to February?

Answer: No, all new PUA claims filed after December 26, 2020 can only be backdated to December 1, 2020.

Question: How long will these additional benefits be available?

Answer: The Continued Assistance Act provides benefits for eligible individuals beginning week ending January 2, 2021 through March 13, 2021. There are different eligibility requirements for each program and more information will be provided once it becomes available.

Information will be shared at does.dc.gov and on DOES social media pages as it becomes available. DOES customer service representatives do not have additional information at this time.

Note: DOES continues to await further federal guidance to implement the new Mixed Earner Unemployment Compensation (MEUC) program, extensions of PUA and PEUC, as well as the re-implementation of FPUC – a $300 weekly benefit. Eligible weeks prior to December 26, 2020 can still be processed. The agency is receiving a higher-than-normal call volume and encourages claimants to apply for unemployment compensation online at dcnetworks.org.