Lame duck stimulus

Actual provisions are scarce. But, you can get a description of the unemployment provisions from Michele Evermore of NELP and from the National Law Review.

Some things claimants should immediately note:

  • benefits for PEUC and PUA programs are extended an additional 11 weeks to March 14th
  • an additional $300 PUC is added for anyone receiving PEUC, PUA, EB, or regular unemployment benefits during these additional weeks,
  • anyone who has not exhausted PEUC benefits (now 24 weeks in toto) or PUA benefits (now 50 weeks in toto) can continue to receive those benefits after March 14th to the week of 5 April 2021,
  • waivers for over-payment of PUA benefits are now available (previously, over-payments of PUA benefits were not legally available for claimants caught between regular unemployment and PUA),
  • waivers of LWA over-payments are also now available,
  • claimants can file new PUA claims for job losses after 1 December 2020,
  • claimants with new PUA claims after 31 Jan. 2021 must now submit wage records verifying unemployment within 21 days, and
  • all other PUA claimants must submit wage records verifying their unemployment within 90 days of 31 January 2021 (i.e., Thursday, 1 May 2021).

Employers should note as well:

  • reimbursable non-profit employers will continue to receive the 50% subsidy through 14 March 2021, and
  • 100% federal support for work-sharing arrangements will continue.

For state unemployment agencies, waiver of any interest on federal loans to cover payment of regular unemployment benefits continue (not an issue in Wisconsin, as the unemployment trust fund was $1.2 billion as of Nov. 10th). But, federal funding for waiting week benefits is halved to 50%.

Update (28 Dec. 2020): The current president waited several days to sign this bill — until December 27th — and so both PUA and PEUC benefits were slated to expire on December 26th. That delay could mean that there will be a week gap in coverage, including the new $300 PUC that is part of these extended unemployment benefits.

A report from The Hill indicates that some states and Michelle Evermore of NELP are developing a way to keep claimants from losing this week of benefits:

According to Evermore, the Labor Department’s Employment and Training Administration, which administers federal aid to state unemployment programs, could modify their existing state contracts instead of writing new ones altogether, thus avoiding the lapse.

“It looks like it may be possible that states could, instead of drafting new agreements with states, they could just modify their old agreements,” Evermore said.

In essence, they could backdate their agreements to keep the funds from lapsing. But Evermore warned that the workaround may not pass legal muster, and whether states could proceed remained an open question.

One state unemployment office confirmed to The Hill that they were working on the effort. The Hill has reached out to the Labor Department for comment.

If the workaround is approved, it could potentially prevent the trimming of another benefit that provides $300 in additional unemployment insurance to the roughly 20 million people receiving them.

Evers’ budget listening session

Gov. Evers and Lt. Gov. Barnes are having listening sessions for the state’s 2021-2022 budget.

The session tomorrow — Dec. 2nd, starting at 6pm — is on the “Environment, Infrastructure, and the Economy.” As unemployment benefits are part of the economy, those of you still waiting on benefit claims or have had their entirely merited claims denied for illegitimate and illegal reasons should make your concerns about the unemployment system known.

Click here to register for this meeting. The meeting can be watched on WisEye.

If you are looking for something to say, look at this poster that used to appear in the state’s unemployment offices.

unemployment poster

As I wrote on July 9th:

A weekly benefit for food and shelter does not exist when the state agency actively takes every opportunity to deny unemployment benefits for weeks and now months at a time.

Furthermore, Wis. Stat. § 108.01 (emphasis provided) declares the following public policy:

(1) Unemployment in Wisconsin is recognized as an urgent public problem, gravely affecting the health, morals and welfare of the people of this state. The burdens resulting from irregular employment and reduced annual earnings fall directly on the unemployed worker and his or her family. The decreased and irregular purchasing power of wage earners in turn vitally affects the livelihood of farmers, merchants and manufacturers, results in a decreased demand for their products, and thus tends partially to paralyze the economic life of the entire state. In good times and in bad times unemployment is a heavy social cost, directly affecting many thousands of wage earners. Each employing unit in Wisconsin should pay at least a part of this social cost, connected with its own irregular operations, by financing benefits for its own unemployed workers. Each employer’s contribution rate should vary in accordance with its own unemployment costs, as shown by experience under this chapter. Whether or not a given employing unit can provide steadier work and wages for its own employees, it can reasonably be required to build up a limited reserve for unemployment, out of which benefits shall be paid to its eligible unemployed workers, as a matter of right, based on their respective wages and lengths of service.

(2) The economic burdens resulting from unemployment should not only be shared more fairly, but should also be decreased and prevented as far as possible. A sound system of unemployment reserves, contributions and benefits should induce and reward steady operations by each employer, since the employer is in a better position than any other agency to share in and to reduce the social costs of its own irregular employment. Employers and employees throughout the state should cooperate, in advisory committees under government supervision, to promote and encourage the steadiest possible employment. A more adequate system of free public employment offices should be provided, at the expense of employers, to place workers more efficiently and to shorten the periods between jobs. Education and retraining of workers during their unemployment should be encouraged. Governmental construction providing emergency relief through work and wages should be stimulated.

(3) A gradual and constructive solution of the unemployment problem along these lines has become an imperative public need.

Maybe the state should start paying attention to some of these objectives.