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 by President Trump on March 27, 2020.
- 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 receive an extra $600 in federal benefits each week through July 31, 2020.
- The FPUC was extended at a reduced rate, for these unemployed individuals to receive an additional $300 per week, until Sept. 6, 2021.
- The CARES Act also established the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) program, which extends unemployment benefits for an extra 24 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 has been forcing states and businesses to shut down, the U.S. is likely looking at months of double-digit 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 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, received 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 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 expiry date for this new weekly amount is September 6, 2021, as it was extended by the American Rescue Plan.
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 24 additional weeks of UI to people who have exhausted their benefits (see below).
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 $600 a week up to July 25, 2020. The benefit is extended for $300 per week until March 14, 2021.|
|Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA)||Extends benefits to self-employed, freelancers, and independent contractors.|
|Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC)||Extends benefits for an extra 24 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 administered an extra $600 weekly payment to eligible people who receive 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.
FPUC was extended by the American Rescue Plan to go until September 6, 2021, allowing $300 per week in supplemental payment.
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.
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 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 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.
Congress.gov. "H.R. 748—CARES Act." Accessed April 10, 2021.
Congress.gov. "H. R. 1319." Accessed April 10, 2021.
U.S. Department of Labor. "New COVID-19 Unemployment Benefits: Answering Common Questions." Accessed April 10, 2021.
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. "THE EMPLOYMENT SITUATION — DECEMBER 2020." Accessed April 10, 2021.
The White House. "Memorandum on Authorizing the Other Needs Assistance Program for Major Disaster Declarations Related to Coronavirus Disease 2019." Accessed April 10, 2021.
U.S. Department of Labor. "U.S. Department of Labor Publishes Guidance on Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation." Accessed April 10, 2021.
U. S. Department of Labor. "Unemployment Insurance Program Letter No. 15-20." Accessed April 10, 2021.
U.S. Department of Labor. "'Coronavirus Resources." Accessed April 10, 2021.
Treasury Dept. "Paycheck Protection Program Loans: Frequently Asked Questions," Page 14. Accessed April 10, 2021.