What Is Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC)?

Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) is an emergency program designed to help Americans affected by the 2020 novel coronavirus pandemic. It was established by the CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security) Act, a $2 trillion coronavirus emergency stimulus package signed into law by President Trump on March 27, 2020.

Key Takeaways

  • The CARES Act created the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) program, which extends unemployment insurance for an extra 13 weeks to those who have exhausted their benefits.
  • States are required to offer flexibility to applicants in meeting PEUC eligibility requirements related to "actively seeking work" if an applicant's ability to find work is affected by COVID-19.
  • In addition to the weekly benefits individuals can get through PEUC, they are also eligible for $600 per week under the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) program established by the CARES Act.
  • Most states recommend applying for unemployment benefits online.

Understanding Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC)

As states shut down and businesses shutter due to the COVID-19 crisis, millions of laid-off workers in the U.S. will depend on unemployment insurance (UI) to help cover rent, groceries, and other expenses in the coming months. But what if you are already unemployed and your benefits have run out?

The CARES Act established the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) program to allow people who have exhausted their unemployment compensation benefits to receive up to 13 additional weeks of benefits, provided they "are able to work, available to work, and actively seeking work."

States are required to offer flexibility to applicants in meeting PEUC eligibility requirements related to "actively seeking work" if an applicant's ability to find work is affected by COVID-19. Individual states will offer guidance on reporting requirements. Some states, for example, allow you to answer "Yes" to the question: "Did you look for work?" if you are filing due to COVID-19 and didn't actually look for work.

Three New Unemployment Programs Under the CARES Act

In addition to the PEUC program, the CARES Act extends unemployment benefits through two other initiatives: the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program and the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) program. 

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

Source: H.R. 748

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.

How to Apply for PEUC

Anyone who has exhausted their regular unemployment compensation benefits can get an extra 13 weeks of benefits through the PEUC program.

To receive PEUC, you must be actively engaged in looking for work. However, the bill specifies that "a State shall provide flexibility in meeting such [work search] requirements in case of individuals unable to search for work because of COVID-19, including because of illness, quarantine, or movement restriction." Individual states will offer guidance on how to extend benefits through this program.

In addition to the weekly benefit amount you can receive under PEUC, you will also be eligible for $600 per week under the FPUC program.

A "non-reduction" rule in the CARES Act prevents states from doing anything to decrease the maximum number of weeks of unemployment insurance or the weekly benefits available under state law as of Jan. 1, 2020.

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 instance, 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 working 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.

To find out the rules in your state, check with your state's unemployment insurance program.