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The AAHAM Legislative Currents are hosted here.  In order to read them, you will need to be logged in.

Tuesday, December 8, 2020

Coronavirus Relief Package Extends Emergency Unemployment Insurance and Paid Leave

Coronavirus Relief Package Extends Emergency Unemployment Insurance and Paid Leave
Congress cleared a massive stimulus and budget package that would extend emergency unemployment programs and paid sick leave — as well as send Americans a $600 stimulus check and create expanded benefits for mixed earners, among other things.
 
While many of the provisions are similar to those of the bipartisan framework circulated last week, there are some differences. Here's what the coronavirus rescue language in the bill:

Unemployment insurance: The package would extend until March 14 the CARES Act-created emergency unemployment insurance programs: Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, which provides jobless benefits to gig workers and others not traditionally eligible for help, and Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation, which extends state unemployment benefits an additional 13 weeks.

Eligible workers still receiving benefits as of March 14 would be able to continue doing so until April 5. The bill would increase the number of weeks a worker could receive PUA from 39 to 50, and the number of weeks a worker could receive PEUC from 13 to 24, for a total of 11 additional weeks in both cases. It would also allow states to waive PUA overpayments that were not the fault of the worker.

Both programs had been set to expire Dec. 31, with final payments made Dec. 26. That would have cut off more than 13 million workers — many of whom are already behind on their bills.

Extra $300: The bill would restore the CARES Act-created Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation program to provide all workers receiving jobless aid with an extra $300 a week from Dec. 27 through March 14.

Other extensions: The bill would also extend until March 14 several other CARES Act unemployment provisions, including the federal government's reimbursement to states for waiving the one-week waiting period to receive benefits (capped at 50 percent of the cost) and for the cost of states' Short-Term Compensation programs (at 100 percent if the programs are codified in state law, 50 percent if not).

In addition, it would extend a Families First Coronavirus Response Act unemployment provision that ensured 100 percent federal reimbursement of states' Extended Benefits programs, which allow workers to collect jobless aid for longer periods when the unemployment rate in their state surpasses a certain threshold.

Fraud prevention: The bill would include several provisions aimed at combating unemployment fraud, including a requirement that those who apply for PUA after Jan. 31 submit supporting documentation within 21 days. States would also have to establish, within 30 days of the legislation's enactment, a system for employers to report if their workers refuse to return to work.

Mixed earners: The bill would provide an extra $100 a week to mixed earners — workers who make at least $5,000 a year working for themselves and can't receive PUA since they are eligible for state unemployment benefits.

Paid leave:
Unlike the bipartisan framework, the bill would extend through the end of March the emergency paid sick leave and paid family and medical leave programs enacted under Families First. The benefits apply to an estimated half of the U.S. workforce and are slated to expire at the end of December.

Childcare: The bill would appropriate $10 billion to the Child Care and Development Block Grant program, the same as the bipartisan framework circulated last week. Child care providers are among those hardest hit by the virus, and their demise threatens to disproportionately affect Black and brown women, as well as force parents, disproportionately mothers, to leave the workforce.

Unlike the framework, the bill would also include $250 million for Head Start programs, which a recent CDC report found were able to successfully stem the spread of the virus.

Stimulus checks:
The bill would send eligible taxpayers a $600 stimulus check, which Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said could hit bank accounts as soon as this month.
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