The Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) program, authorized by the CARES Act and renewed by subsequent legislation and a presidential order, originally provided $600 per week in extra unemployment benefits to unemployed workers in states that opted in to the program. In August 2020, the extra payment was lowered to $300, the amount currently authorized by the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) of 2021 through Sept. 6, 2021.

To receive the FPUC extra $300 per week benefit, you must file a claim for unemployment benefits. You do not need to sign up specifically for FPUC. Those payments are automatic if you qualify for regular unemployment insurance (UI) payments.

Key Takeaways

  • The Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) program provides $300 per week in extra pandemic-related unemployment benefits to unemployed and underemployed workers through state unemployment agencies.
  • States and territories have the option but not the obligation to participate in the FPUC program and some plan to discontinue participation based on a belief that the extended and expanded benefits discourage people from returning to work.
  • In states where FPUC is available, to be eligible you must file a claim with your local unemployment office and be approved for unemployment benefits.
  • After several extensions and expirations, FPUC funding was renewed through Sept. 6, 2021, by the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) of 2021.

FPUC Authorization and Funding History

As noted, additional unemployment benefits of $600 per week were originally authorized by the CARES Act through July 31, 2021. This was followed by the Lost Wages Assistance (LWA) program, authorized by an Aug. 8 presidential memo and subsequent Department of Labor (DOL) guidance. LWA funds, which were expected to last from Aug. 1, 2020, to Dec. 27, 2020, were depleted by Sept. 5, 2020.

The signing of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021 into law Dec. 27, 2020, restarted the FPUC program and authorized $300 FPUC payments beginning after Dec. 26, 2020, and ending on or before March 14, 2021.

Most recently, the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) of 2021, which became law March 11, 2021, extended FPUC payments through Sept. 6, 2021. ARPA also provides a waiver of federal income taxes on the first $10, 200 in unemployment benefits received in 2020.

If the state where you worked before becoming unemployed drops out of FPUC, you are not eligible for FPUC program benefits.

Some States Dropping Out of FPUC

For you to receive FPUC funds, your state or territory (also includes Washington D.C.) had to sign up. According to the DOL, as of April 29, 2020, all 50 states and the District of Columbia were signed up and paying FPUC benefits.

Recently, however, some states, have announced plans to stop providing temporary federal unemployment benefits, including FPUC program funds. These states—which according to Forbes, include North Dakota, Mississippi, Alabama, Arkansas, South Carolina, and Montana—say extra and extended unemployment benefits discourage unemployed workers from returning to the workforce. Observers expect additional states to discontinue extended or expanded benefits.

Some states are reinstating requirements that out-of-work benefits recipients prove they are looking for work, a stipulation most states dropped after the pandemic hit in 2020. Some states and businesses are offering sign-up bonuses to encourage workers to apply for available jobs.

Meanwhile, DOL Secretary, Marty Walsh told the Washington Post that the department had "not seen evidence that enhanced unemployment benefits are keeping people out of the labor force."

A working research paper by Professor Arindrajit Dube of the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, suggests that low unemployment insurance benefits do not increase employment levels more than happens in states with high levels of unemployment insurance benefits.

How to Qualify and Apply

In states where FPUC funds are available, payment is generally automatic and does not require a special application. In most states, to get the extra $300 weekly bonus:

  • You must be eligible for—and receiving—unemployment benefits, including unemployment compensation (UC, pandemic emergency unemployment compensation PEUC, extended benefits EB, or pandemic unemployment assistance PUA).
  • You must be able and willing to return to work.
  • You must have become unemployed or had hours reduced due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Beyond stated eligibility standards, it's up to each state or territory to decide what, if anything, you need to do to actually receive the money.

Apply for unemployment benefits at the local unemployment office in the state where you live. Even if you became unemployed in another state, start with your state unemployment office for information on how to apply for benefits in the state where you became unemployed.

States and territories run the FPUC program, not the Federal government. Check with your state unemployment office for details and requirements where you live.

How Long Payments Will Continue

Provided your state does not end FPUC participation and Congress does not further extend pandemic-related unemployment assistance, your payments should continue through Sept.4, 2021. This assumes you remain unemployed and meet other qualifications dictated by your state.