NBC10 Responds: Some Snags in CARES Act Unemployment

Some people haven't received their CARES Act unemployment benefits. States have been slow to restart payments in the new year, waiting for directions from the federal government.

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NBC10 is one of dozens of news organizations producing BROKE in Philly, a collaborative reporting project on solutions to poverty and the city’s push toward economic justice. Follow us at @BrokeInPhilly.

In late December an extension of the CARES Act was signed into law. It gives an 11-week extension of CARES Act benefits to people who meet the qualifications.

This includes Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation or PEUC, Pandemic Unemployment Assistance or PUA, and the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation or PEUC—the extra $300 filers can expect each week.

But just because the law was enacted, doesn’t mean payments started rolling out automatically.

This is something that Leonard Hilton of Camden has been experiencing for weeks now.

“It's just it's annoying. It's frustrating. And I don't know really what to do,” said Hilton. He told NBC10 Responds he’s called the New Jersey Department of Labor numerous times, but he cannot get through to a representative because the lines are busy.

He wrote to NBC10 Responds in hopes of getting answers, and we reached out to the departments of labor for New Jersey, Delaware, and Pennsylvania.

CARES Act Payments in Pennsylvania

According to Pennsylvania’s Department of Labor and Industry: “L&I has been delayed in restarting payments for the three federal programs by the federal Department of Labor, which did not issue all of the guidance needed to ensure states are following the federal law when making payments for the federal programs until Jan. 11.”

As of January 22, Pennsylvania says PUA filers can begin filing for their additional 11 claim weeks. These claimants must file by January 29th. If the deadline is missed, they will need to email to request backdating.

The PA Department of Labor and Industry explains the following nuances that could impact your PUA claim:

  • You will be able to file for the weeks of January 2; 9; 16; and 23.
  • If you no longer had claim weeks or did not file for the week ending December 26, 2020, for any reason, you MUST REOPEN your claim before you can proceed. To do this, log onto your dashboard and click on the link to reopen a claim.
  • If you tried to open a new claim while the PUA program was inactive, you will have error codes that the UC staff must fix before you can proceed. Please be patient while we work quickly to resolve your issue.
  • If you are a new, first-time PUA claimant opening a claim in 2021, you cannot yet file. We are still adding 2020 as a base wage year in the system and will notify you when you are able to file for benefits.
  • You will automatically receive the extra $300 weekly Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) – you do not need to take any action to get this boost. 

When it comes to PEUC Payments, the PA Department of Labor and Industry explained: “PEUC provides UC claimants with a 13-week extension on their claim, with an additional 11 weeks added through the CARES Act extension, bringing the total to 24 weeks.” An extension for this program was signed December 27th.

PA L&I told NBC10 Responds: “…L&I began working on upgrading its computer system to accommodate changes made by the CARES Act extension and has completed upgrades to allow claimants who had weeks remaining on their 13 allotted weeks to begin filing for these claim weeks on Jan. 15.” It went on to explain: “ L&I will make an announcement when the additional 11 weeks have been added to claimants’ accounts and filing for these weeks begins.”

CARES Act Payments in Delaware

Delaware’s Department of Labor told us it resumed payments under the CARES Act on January 4th.

CARES Act Payments in New Jersey

New Jersey’s Department of Labor and Workforce did not get back to us, but this note on it’s website said in part: “Anyone who exhausts those benefits on or after Dec. 26, 2020 will see a gap in payments while we reprogram our systems to add the 11-week extension. These claimants should wait for notification from NJDOL before resuming weekly certification.”

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