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 Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, and the $2 trillion coronavirus emergency stimulus package signed into law 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 received an extra $600 in federal benefits each week through July 31, 2020.
  • Under the Consolidated Appropriations Act and the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), the FPUC was extended at a reduced rate, allowing unemployed individuals to receive an additional $300 per week.
  • The CARES Act also established the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) program, which extended unemployment benefits for an extra 13 weeks, and the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program, which expanded unemployment insurance eligibility to self-employed workers, freelancers, independent contractors, and part-time workers impacted by the coronavirus.

Understanding Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC)

As the COVID-19 pandemic forced states and businesses to shut down, the U.S. is likely looking at months of high unemployment rates. Predicted long-term to be one of the harshest unemployment situations since the Great Depression, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported the unemployment rate at 6.7% at the end of 2020.

Millions of out-of-work Americans are depending on unemployment insurance (UI) to help cover their housing costs, groceries, and other expenses. 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 provided $300 to $400 in weekly compensation to eligible claimants, stopped accepting applications on Dec. 27, 2020.

Under FPUC, eligible people who collect certain unemployment insurance benefits, including regular unemployment compensation, received an extra $600 in federal benefits each week through July 31, 2020.

FPUC is a flat amount given to people who received unemployment insurance, including those with a partial unemployment benefit check. The original amount of $600 was reduced to $300 per week after the program was extended in August 2020, as long as your state signed the agreement as of Dec. 26, 2020. The expiration date for this new weekly amount is September 6, 2021, as it was extended by the American Rescue Plan.

Please note, however, that a total of 25 states have elected to end the $300 federal supplement early. The best way to confirm the status of your unemployment benefits is to check with your state's unemployment office. The Department of Labor lists the contact information for all fifty states' labor offices on its website.

This program also applies to people who receive benefits under the new Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program, which covers freelancers, independent contractors, and gig workers, and the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) program, which extends 24 additional weeks of UI to people who have exhausted their benefits.

If you 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 (PUA) program and the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) program. Here is how they compare:

Program What it Does
Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) Provides a federal benefit of $300 a week up to Sept. 6, 2021.*
Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) Extends benefits to self-employed, freelancers, and independent contractors. 
Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) Extends $300 per week benefits for up to 53 weeks until Sept. 6, 2021.*

*A number of states have chosen to end their enrollment in these programs early. Check with your state's unemployment office to determine the duration of your benefits.

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 current FPUC program, states administer an extra $300 weekly payment to eligible people who receive regular unemployment benefits (including Unemployment Compensation for Federal Employees and Unemployment Compensation for ex-service members), 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.

FPUC was extended by the American Rescue Plan to go until September 6, 2021, however, a number of states have chosen to end their enrollment in the program early—meaning your $300 supplement may run out before then. Check with your state's unemployment office to determine the duration of your benefits.

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 the 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 payment per week, in addition to each state's regular unemployment payment. Be wary of following that approach.

Businesses who receive 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 Department 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.