What Is Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC)?

Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) is an emergency program designed to increase unemployment benefits for millions of Americans affected by the 2020 novel coronavirus pandemic. FPUC was established by the CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security) Act, the $2 trillion coronavirus emergency stimulus package signed into law by President Trump on March 27, 2020.

Key Takeaways

  • Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) is an emergency program established by the CARES Act to increase unemployment benefits for Americans who are out of work because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Under FPUC, eligible people who collect certain unemployment insurance benefits—including regular unemployment compensation—will get an extra $600 in federal benefits each week through July 25, 2020, or July 26, 2020.
  • The CARES Act also established the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) program, which extends unemployment benefits for an extra 13 weeks, and the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program, which expands unemployment insurance eligibility to self-employed workers, freelancers, independent contractors, and part-time workers impacted by the coronavirus.
  • Most states recommend applying for unemployment insurance benefits online.

Understanding Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation

(FPUC)

As the COVID-19 pandemic forces states to shut down and businesses to button up, the U.S. is likely looking at months of double-digit unemployment rates. Some economists have predicted that 20 million Americans will be jobless by July, which would be the most dire unemployment situation since the Great Depression.

Millions of out-of-work Americans will depend on unemployment insurance (UI) to help cover rent, groceries, and other expenses in the coming months. Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) is one of several new programs established by the CARES Act to help alleviate some of the economic pain caused by COVID-19.

The Lost Wages Assistance (LWA) program, which provides $300 to $400 in weekly compensation to eligible claimants, was established Aug. 8, 2020, following the expiration of FPUC at the end of July, 2020.

Under FPUC, eligible people who collect certain unemployment insurance benefits—including regular unemployment compensation—will get an extra $600 in federal benefits each week. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, “FPUC is not payable for any week of unemployment ending after July 31, 2020. Accordingly, in states where the week of unemployment ends on a Saturday, the last week that FPUC may be paid is the week ending July 25, 2020. For states where the week of unemployment ends on a Sunday, the last week that FPUC is payable is the week ending July 26, 2020."

FPUC is a flat amount given to people who are receiving unemployment insurance, including those who get a partial unemployment benefit check. This program also applies to people who receive benefits under the new Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program—which covers freelancers, independent contractors, and gig workers—and the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation program, which extends 13 additional weeks of UI to people who have exhausted their benefits (see below).

If you have applied or are planning on applying for unemployment insurance under the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program, be sure to check with your individual state to determine when your last PUA payment will be issued.

Three New Unemployment Programs Under the CARES Act

In addition to the FPUC program, the CARES Act extends unemployment benefits through two other initiatives: the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program and the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation program. Here is how they compare:

Program What it Does
Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) Provides a federal benefit of $600 a week.  
Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) Extends benefits to self-employed, freelancers, and independent contractors. 
Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) Extends benefits for an extra 13 weeks after regular unemployment compensation benefits are exhausted.

How to Apply for Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation

To apply for Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation, you must file a claim for regular benefits with the UI program in the state where you worked. Depending on the state, you can file a claim in person, online, or over the phone; most states recommend filing online. When you file a claim, you must provide your Social Security number, contact information, and details about your former employment. To find out the rules in your state, check with your state's unemployment insurance program.

Under the FPUC program, states will administer an extra $600 weekly payment to eligible people who are receiving regular unemployment benefits (including Unemployment Compensation for Federal Employees and Unemployment Compensation for Ex-Servicemembers), as well those collecting benefits from the following programs:

  • Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation
  • Pandemic Unemployment Assistance
  • Extended Benefits
  • Short-Time Compensation
  • Trade Readjustment Allowances
  • Disaster Unemployment Assistance
  • Payments under the Self-Employment Assistance program

When states provide the extra payment, eligible people will receive retroactive payments.

The payments will date back to your eligibility date or the date your state signed an agreement to provide the benefits—whichever is later. All states have executed agreements with the Department of Labor as of March 28, 2020. Because the program was not extended, FPUC benefit payments ended on July 25, 2020, or July 26, 2020.

Under the CARES Act, states that waive their usual one-week "waiting period" for benefits will be fully reimbursed by the federal government for benefits paid that week, plus any associated administrative expenses.

Special Considerations

Federal law allows considerable flexibility for states to amend their laws to provide unemployment insurance benefits in several COVID-19-related situations. States can, for example, pay benefits when:

  •  An employer temporarily closes due to COVID-19, preventing employees from going to work
  •  A person is quarantined and anticipates going back to work after the quarantine is over
  • A person stops work due to a risk of COVID-19 exposure or infection, to care for a family member, or to homeschool their children

Under federal law, an employee doesn't have to quit to receive benefits due to COVID-19.

Warning: If You Are Offered Your Old Job Back

Some people may be tempted to stay on unemployment instead of returning to work—at least through the period where FPUC provides that extra $600 per week, in addition to each state's regular unemployment payment. Be wary of following that approach.

Businesses who are receiving loan forgiveness under the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) have been pushing for an answer to whether they would lose loan forgiveness if laid-off employees refuse to return when offered their old jobs back (the extra payments mean many are making more on unemployment than they did at work). The Treasury Dept. issued an FAQ saying this would not happen if they make a good-faith, written offer to rehire a laid-off employee (same hours, same wages) and have documented evidence of being turned down by the employee. An "interim final rule" on this issue is coming.

But here's what that FAQ also said: "Employees and employers should be aware that employees who reject offers of re-employment may forfeit eligibility for continued unemployment compensation." In other words: Refuse to go back and you could lose your unemployment insurance.