Unemployment benefit changes in the CARES Act (March 2020)

In March 2020, the third emergency pandemic response law, called the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act), created three new forms of unemployment benefits for states to distribute, fully funded by the federal government:

  • Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (PUC) provided an additional $600 per week on top of any state unemployment benefits until the end of July 2020 to anyone eligible for UI.
  • Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) offered 13 additional weeks of the state unemployment benefits after a person had reached their state’s time limit (26 weeks in most states). Only once a person has exhausted PEUC will they move onto Extended Benefits, if those have been triggered in their state.
  • Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) expanded 39 weeks of benefits to most of the people who aren’t normally covered (including self-employed independent contractors—like gig workers—and those with irregular or insufficient work histories. Unfortunately undocumented immigrants were still excluded). The last of these benefits was set to expire on December 31, 2020.