Last night I received from a source a letter from the Employment and Training Administration for the US Dep’t of Labor. This letter explained that SSDI recipients are eligible for PUA benefits.
Dear Secretary Frostman:
The U.S. Department of Labor (Department) received your letter regarding Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) eligibility for State of Wisconsin recipients of Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) payments. Your correspondence was forwarded to the Department’s Employment and Training Administration (ETA) for response. ETA is responsible for administering the federal-state Unemployment Insurance (UI) program within the Department.
Wisconsin’s state law provides that an individual is “ineligible for benefits” for each week in the month in which an individual receives SSDI. Wisconsin interprets this provision of its law as a prohibition on receiving regular unemployment compensation (UC) for individuals receiving SSDI. The plain language text of the Wisconsin law, and the Department’s understanding of the State’s interpretation of its law, would disqualify individuals who receive SSDI from eligibility for regular UC. Because these individuals are ineligible for regular UC, they meet the PUA eligibility requirement of “not eligible for regular compensation.” Therefore, if they are unemployed, have reduced employment, or are unable to work or are unavailable to work due to one of the specified COVID-19 reasons outlined in the CARES Act or the Department’s guidance in UI Program Letter No. 16-20, they may be eligible for PUA benefit.
Because Section 2102 of the CARES Act does not provide for the treatment of other income an individual may have, the Disaster Unemployment Assistance (DUA) regulations govern this issue. The DUA regulation at 20 C.F.R. 625.13(a)(6) provides that the prorated amount of SSDI an individual receives is required to be deducted from DUA payments but only to the extent that this benefit would be reduced under the applicable state law. Under Wisconsin law, SSDI income is not reduced from an individual’s entitlement to regular UC because, under the State’s law, an individual is ineligible for any UC if they are receiving SSDI. Therefore, it appears that under Wisconsin law, SSDI income would not be reduced from an individual’s DUA (or PUA) entitlement.
Thank you for your commitment to ensuring that payments of PUA are consistent with the applicable state and federal laws and regulations for this program. If you have any additional questions, please contact ETA at (XXX) XXX-XXXX.
Assistant Secretary for Employment and Training
With this letter, 158,000+ workers in Wisconsin (and 314,000 workers in North Carolina who were caught in legal quagmires because of implementation problems in that state) now definitively qualify for PUA benefits, where before they had no options.
Update (28 July 2020): DWD is advising SSDI recipients to apply for PUA benefits. Fox6 has this report on the fix. Wisconsin Examiner has this report detailing the problem and this report on the fix.
Update (30 July 2020): Fox6 has this additional report on this change in policy. Wisconsin Watch follows up on folks affected by this change in policy. Wisconsin Examiner has this follow-up on this policy change.