Unemployment alphabet soup: Here's what it means

PUA, FPUC, PEUC -- TMA (Too Many Acronyms)!

I use acronyms when I have to (especially "EEOC"), but I'm not a fan.

The federal CARES Act has some very important provisions related to unemployment benefits for people who have lost their jobs, been furloughed, or have otherwise lost work for reasons related to the coronavirus pandemic. Good stuff, but, oh, those acronyms! 

"CARES," of course, is itself an acronym -- for "Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security," but at least it spells a real word.

Anyway, it's worth taking a look at what's in those CARES Act unemployment provisions. And I'll give you some helpful mnemonics so that you can remember what each one means.

(Please note that there is much more to the CARES Act, and even to the unemployment provisions of the CARES Act, than I can discuss in this little blog post.)

"PUA." This stands for "Pandemic Unemployment Assistance." It's available for a maximum of 39 weeks during the period of January 27 through December 31, 2020. This is the part of the CARES Act that allows people who would not normally qualify for unemployment -- including self-employed individuals, gig workers, and independent contractors -- to get benefits. It also applies to people who have already exhausted their "regular" unemployment benefits.

To be eligible, the individual must be able and available to work, and actively seeking work, within the meaning of the applicable state unemployment law. States are encouraged to be "flexible" if an individual is unable to work because of COVID-19 (including illness, quarantine, or restriction on movement).

Helpful mnemonic: Pump Up the Autonomous. 

Now, let's kick it up a notch, as Emeril would say.

"FPUC." This stands for "Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation." You'll like this one because it's the one that allows unemployed individuals to get $600 a week in addition to whatever unemployment benefits they'd be entitled to under state law. As long as the individual is eligible for some type of unemployment (including PUA), he or she will also be eligible for this. The states are required to enter into an agreement with the U.S. Department of Labor, and (among other things, I am sure) have to promise that they will not reduce their state unemployment benefits. FPUC is available from the date that your state enters into an agreement with the Department of Labor through July 31.

Helpful mnemonic: Feds Pay U Cash!

BAM! (Not an acronym.)


On to the next one!

"PEUC." This stands for "Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation." It runs from the date that the state enters into an agreement with the Department of Labor through December 31, 2020. This is the provision that allows unemployed individuals to get 13 additional weeks of unemployment benefits after they exhaust their state unemployment benefits. To be eligible, an employee must have exhausted his or her "regular" unemployment, have no right to unemployment under state or federal law, not be receiving unemployment under Canadian law, and be able and available to work, and actively seeking work (with the same state flexibility requirement that applies under the PUA). The "non-reduction rule" applies to PEUC as well as FPUC.

Helpful mnemonic: Payments Extended to U thru Christmas

Oh, and one more thing: 

Incentive for states to waive one-week waiting period.
If your state has dispensed with the one-week waiting period in response to the coronavirus pandemic and has entered into an agreement with the Department of Labor, then the state will be reimbursed for 100 percent of this cost by the federal government.

I don't know about you, but these acronyms are starting to grow on me.

Robin Shea has 30 years' experience in employment litigation, including Title VII and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act (including the Amendments Act). 
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