The state Department of Workforce Development (DWD) announced Wednesday it has launched a $300 weekly unemployment insurance supplement created as part of the latest round of federal COVID-19 relief. The department also released target launch dates in April for new benefits under two other pandemic unemployment programs.
The announcement comes a day after the U.S. Department of Labor released guidance to states on how to implement the new benefits.
When President Joe Biden signed the latest benefits into law as part of the most recent federal coronavirus relief plan on March 11, DWD was halfway through launching new benefits created under the second round of federal COVID-19 relief. Those benefits were signed into law in late December.
Launch dates for the latest round of benefits under four pandemic unemployment programs can be found on DWD's progress tracker website.
Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation
Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) is a $300 weekly supplement to unemployment insurance. Unemployment recipients were previously receiving a $300 weekly supplement to their unemployment under benefits approved in the second round of federal coronavirus relief in December. The latest iteration of the supplement continues the $300 payments through Sept. 4 in Wisconsin.
As of Wednesday, DWD has fully launched the FPUC extension under the latest relief.
DWD confirmed Wednesday that many receiving the FPUC supplement will not experience a lapse in payments starting the week of March 14.
But, those who experience a delay in payment under Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) or Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) will also experience a lapse in the $300 supplement until DWD launches new benefits under those programs.
About 112,300 Wisconsinites received more than $40 million in FPUC benefits last week, according to DWD.
Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation
PEUC extends the amount of time someone can receive regular unemployment.
When the program was created by Congress in March 2020, recipients were allowed a maximum of 13 weeks of benefits under the program. In the second round of federal coronavirus relief, Congress granted an additional 11 weeks of benefits for a maximum of 24 weeks under the program. In the third and latest round of federal pandemic relief, a further 29 weeks of benefits were allowed, for a maximum of 53 weeks of benefits under the PEUC program through Sept. 4 in Wisconsin.
DWD expects to launch the additional 29 weeks of benefits on April 8, about a month from when the benefits were signed into law, according to the department's online progress tracker.
In an email Tuesday evening, DWD spokesperson Alaina Knief said PEUC recipients who are still drawing from the weeks of coverage allotted in the second round of coronavirus relief will not see a delay in payments until they have reached their 24-week maximum.
Those who have already exhausted PEUC benefits from the second round of federal relief will see a delay in payments starting the week of March 14 through the anticipated launch of the latest benefit extension April 8.
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"Once we launch the extension, those eligible for PEUC will receive back payments, so we ask that people continue filing weekly claims if they remain unemployed," Knief said in an email Tuesday evening.
PEUC recipients will also see a delay in payments for the $300 supplement until the program launches in early April, but will receive back payments for the supplement, DWD said.
Carol Cizauskas' family has been relying on the PEUC program after her husband, who asked that WPR not share his name, lost his job in the restaurant industry in March 2020. They still have a lot of questions about whether he'll continue to qualify for unemployment or whether something could slow down her husband's claim further. But, Cizauskas said, if they only have to go about three weeks without payment, it would be a huge relief.
"That three-week delay is doable because we finally received all the back pay of unemployment that was held up for so long, and because we just received our federal stimulus payments," Cizauskas said.
According to DWD, approximately 7,400 Wisconsinites will wait about three weeks to receive their latest benefits after exhausting their PEUC benefits under the second round of coronavirus relief.
Pandemic Unemployment Assistance
PUA is unemployment insurance for those who aren't typically eligible for unemployment, like self-employed and contract workers. In the second round of coronavirus relief, Congress allowed for a maximum of 50 weeks of coverage under the program. In the latest federal pandemic relief legislation, an additional 29 weeks of benefits were granted for a maximum of 79 weeks of benefits under PUA through Sept. 4 in Wisconsin.
DWD expects to launch benefits granted under both the second and third rounds of federal relief on April 21, according to the department's online progress tracker, meaning the latest set of benefits is not expected to create further delays for PUA recipients in Wisconsin.
Those in the PUA program won't receive their $300 supplements until the program launches in late April, at which time they'll receive back payments for all benefits including the supplement, according to DWD.
PUA recipients are among those who've waited the longest for their benefits, and will ultimately endure a nearly four-month wait for aid approved in December.
Dino Paladino, a self-employed Cudahy resident who has struggled to find work building decks since March 2020, said the wait has been grueling.
"It's a struggle. It's depressing," Paladino said. "You can't do bills ... with the uncertainty that's out there."