Question: What is going on with the PEUC extension? It’s been a full month now. And they wouldn’t process my EB. I could have been on EB all this time and instead, I am getting nothing! How do they think people can survive like this?
Answer: The state Department of Labor and Industrial Relations had hoped to fully launch the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation extension by the end of January, but that is not happening, as you and thousands of other jobless Hawaii residents know.
PEUC is the federally funded program for people who have exhausted their standard Unemployment Insurance. Its original iteration, created last year as part of the CARES Act, provided up to 13 weeks of benefits. Congress added 11 more weeks in the COVID relief bill it approved in December, but President Donald Trump didn’t sign the bill into law until after the original program expired. That has complicated Hawaii’s rollout of the extension, Bill Kunstman, a DLIR spokesman, said Friday.
You and others who tried to apply for Extended Benefits (known as EB, or EB20) from Dec. 15 through Dec. 28 but had your applications go unprocessed should receive an email from the DLIR asking whether you want to move forward with EB now, said Kunstman. You will have until Feb. 5 at 5:30 p.m. to make your decision, according to a DLIR news release issued Saturday.
If you choose EB, you would be paid retroactively for eligible weeks when you were unable to file, he said. If you choose to wait for the PEUC extension, you would not receive benefits for unpaid weeks prior to Jan. 2, he said.
EB applications should be processed within a few business days, he said. He could not give a definite launch date for PEUC for those who have so far been unable to file, he said.
Your weekly benefit amount would be the same in either program, both of which qualify for the $300 weekly boost of Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation, popularly known as the plus-up, he said.
The revived plus-up is flowing, according to a notice on the DLIR website, which states: “On Jan. 25, 2021, the Unemployment Insurance Division began paying the $300 plus-up (FPUC) on claim certifications for weeks ending on and after Jan. 2, 2021. The $300 plus-up for back weeks is being paid in batches. Back week payments should be completed by the end of the month. Moving forward, the $300 plus-up will be included in qualified weekly benefit payments up until the week ending March 13, 2021. To receive the $300 plus-up, please continue to file your weekly claim certifications.”
As your question indicated, the DLIR stopped automatically processing EB applications in mid-December. Part of its explanation was that it did not want people to risk missing out on the PEUC extension. Its rationale was that EB, which was triggered by Hawaii’s high unemployment rate and provides 13 weeks of benefits, likely still would be operating after claimants exhausted their PEUC.
Now the DLIR says it will resume auto-processing EB applications after Feb. 5, unless it hears otherwise from affected claimants (those who receive the email).
Eligible people may claim PEUC benefits after they exhaust EB, if the PEUC program is still in force at that time, Kunstman said.
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