Volunteers load grocery aid bags for laid-off workers at a food distribution event on December 12, 2020 in Orlando, Florida.
Paul Hennessy / NurPhoto via Getty Images
Democrats are ready to give redundant workers more unemployment benefits. Meanwhile, some workers are still waiting for the final tranche, which was approved months ago.
A $ 900 billion Covid Relief Act signed on Dec. 27 extended unemployment benefits through March 14, increasing them by $ 300 per week.
In Wisconsin, officials estimate the self-employed and gig workers won't get this extra help until April 21 – almost four months later.
Other workers who had exhausted their state benefits didn't get the expanded assistance until Thursday, according to the Department of Workforce Development in Wisconsin.
Other states, such as California and Colorado, have only recently started paying benefits to some groups.
Employees who are delayed receive compensation for the weeks they missed and are paid as a whole.
But while they wait for the money, the unemployed have to forego any income support they may need to pay rent or buy groceries.
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Even with modern computer systems, there is usually some lag time.
The U.S. Department of Labor must issue guidance to states interpreting the rules contained in an auxiliary law. This sets the parameters for government employment agencies, which then encode the updates into their systems.
There is usually also a testing phase that takes place after the programming is completed.
According to Elizabeth Pancotti, policy advisor at Employ America, a progressive think tank, the whole process typically takes about a month to complete.
However, some states were able to provide assistance within a few days.
American rescue plan
Delays were particularly pronounced among workers who have received benefits since the beginning of the pandemic – and who exhausted their allocation of aid through two temporary CARES Act programs before the December Act extended them.
These programs are Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, for the self-employed, gig, freelance, and other workers not eligible for government assistance, and Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation, which provides additional government benefits to those running out of the standard amount.
The Continued Assistance Act extended these programs until March 14th.
The $ 1.9 trillion US Bailout Act of 2021, passed by the House of Representatives on Saturday, would extend them through August, adding $ 400 a week to benefits. Senate Democrats agreed to cut the surcharge to $ 300 per week but extend the benefits for another month through September.
Workers who had exhausted PUA benefits in Wisconsin appear to have had the longest delays in the country compared to the December law, according to unemployment experts.
California just started sending additional aid this week to workers who have run out of PUA and PEUC benefits, the state Department for Employment Development said Thursday.
According to the Department for Employment Development, around 185,000 people are affected.
And Colorado did so last week, according to the state's Department of Labor and Employment.
"We know that many Coloradans are currently facing extreme economic hardship and have been eagerly awaiting the opportunity to apply for these additional benefits," said Joe Barela, director of the division, on February 7th.
A new, modernized cloud-based computer system will "enable a much faster implementation of future pandemic assistance laws," said Barela.
The new system called MyUI + was introduced in January.
The December Act offered an additional $ 100 per week to certain self-employed workers who received little weekly allowance due to the specifics of the unemployment regime.
Many countries have not yet introduced the Mixed Earners Unemployment Compensation program. It is a new program created by the December Law that requires agencies to review certain documents to prove an employee's eligibility.
In Virginia, for example, the $ 100 won't be available until April 26, according to the state employment commission. Wisconsin's target date is April 28th. Missouri began offering the supplement on Monday.
Two states – Idaho and South Dakota – have chosen not to offer it, according to Mixed Earners, an advocacy group.