The Department of Labor (DOL) issued two guidance letters this past weekend clarifying the unemployment compensation expansion of the CARES Act, which was passed on March 27, 2020. The guidance letters direct state unemployment and workforce agencies to cover workers who normally do not qualify for unemployment compensation through the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program and/or the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) program.

The PUA provides benefits to independent contractors, the self-employed, and gig economy workers. Workers lacking sufficient work history for regular unemployment also are covered. PUA is not payable to employees who are able to telework or who are receiving paid sick, family, or other leave. PUA provides up to 39 weeks of unemployment benefits for those employees who are unemployed, partially unemployed, or unable to work due to COVID-19 reasons. PUA ends on December 31, 2020.

The FPUC gives eligible individuals an additional $600 in federal unemployment benefits added to state benefits, through the end of July. It also extends state benefits by an additional 13 weeks. Basically, every type of unemployment is eligible for the federal supplemental FPUC payment, including those receiving benefits through the PUA program, through any period of unemployment ending on or before July 31, 2020.