On September 6, 2021 the Federal Pandemic Benefit program expired. Included in the benefits that ended were the PEUC benefits that provided an additional $300/week and the PUA benefits that covered individuals who were not eligible for or had exhausted their regular benefits.
This means that the State Workforce Agencies will resume "normal" operations and will reinstate the requirements that were waived during the pandemic. This includes:
- Reinstating the waiting week for unemployment
- A waiting week occurs during the first week of a new spell of unemployment when a claimant satisfies all the requirements for eligibility, but does not receive any benefit payment for his/her first week of unemployment. States with a waiting week, typically used this time to determine the claimants eligibility.
- Reinstating the Work Search requirements to maintain eligibility
- Pre-pandemic, the requirements for unemployment were being able and available to work and actively seeking employment. States will require those looking to still receiving benefits to prove that they are actively seeking work by logging or reporting their work search activities, registering with the state’s re-employment services, or taking advantage of other re-employment options available in the state. Failure to report adequate re-employment activities can lead to benefits being denied.
- Reminding employers to report any job refusal or refusal of suitable work to the state
- States do have the option to extend benefits past the expiration date by using any leftover funds allocated to them through the American Rescue Plan. At this time, no state has indicated that they will continue to provide the extra benefits. We will continue to monitor this situation and if a state opts to extend benefits using the American Rescue Plan funds, we will update this article.
States that confirmed they are not planning to extend enhanced benefits on their own:
- Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, California, Hawaii, Iowa, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Mississippi, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.
There is concern that once the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program ends, we may see another spike in fraud claims as cybercriminals shift their focus from the PUA benefits for the self-employed and gig workers to the traditional unemployment programs. According to a recent report by Bloomberg Law “Fraud rings look for easy targets that produce revenue with minimal risk,” said Douglas Holmes, president of UWC - Strategic Services on Unemployment & Workers’ Compensation, an advocacy organization for businesses. “When PUA is no longer on the board, they’ll look to other places to exploit. They’ll look to regular UI.”
Employers should pay close attention to benefit claim notices, report those that are suspicious, and alert workers that they might be victims of identity theft. Thomas & Company should be alerted to any potential fraud claims so that we can audit the unemployment benefit charge statements to protest any questionable claims. As always, we post the most up to date information on our UI Fraud Support page https://support.thomas-and-company.com/hc/en-us/categories/1500000053821-CLAIMS-FRAUD.