SALT LAKE CITY — Even though the new COVID-19 relief bill has been signed into law, Utah must still wait for instructions from the federal government on how to pass along certain unemployment payments.
"We're not able to start making payments until we actually get the funds and we're able to draw down those funds from the federal government," said Nate McDonald, the communications director for the Utah Department of Workforce Services.
Approximately 10,400 Utahns are currently receiving unemployment benefits or have applied for benefits under the two programs originally created under the CARES Act that have now been extended into March.
"We're hoping there won't be much of a lapse or lag at all but there could be that possibility," McDonald said. "We believe we're going to be able to quickly jump back on and get things implemented as soon as we get the guidelines but there could be that little bit of a one-week lapse."
Those who are eligible will still get all weeks of unemployment benefits owed to them, McDonald said, any pause in payments would be made up in the following week's payment.
"Our main message for those individuals though is to keep filing your weekly claims. Don't stop. Just file it as normal and we'll play catch up," McDonald said.
The good news is that the programs were already in place, so Utah just needs to reprogram the computer systems to deal with minor changes.
There is no additional application process to receive the extra weeks of benefits or to receive the extra $300 payment.
Our main message for those individuals though is to keep filing your weekly claims. Don't stop. Just file it as normal and we'll play catch up.
–Nate McDonald, Utah Dept. of Workforce Services communications director
"The extension of these temporary federal benefits, with the stimulus payment, will be a great help to those who remain unemployed during this difficult pandemic," said a statement from Kevin Burt, director of Utah's Unemployment Insurance Division.
The additional benefits will be applied automatically as long as a person has already filed for unemployment or is currently receiving benefits, according to the Utah Department of Workforce Services.
"Our priority is to make these benefits available as soon as possible; however, prior to any payments being made, the U.S. Department of Labor must first provide states with guidance and the state must make any operational changes to properly administer these programs," Burt's statement went on to say.
The Utah Department of Workforce Services provided the following details about the federal unemployment programs that have been extended or reinstated:
- Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) – Provides up to 39 weeks of federal unemployment benefits to individuals not otherwise eligible for state unemployment and who are unable to work due to COVID-19, including the self-employed and gig workers. This program has been extended to eligible individuals for up to 50 weeks or until the program expires on March 13, 2021.
- Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) – Provides an additional 13 weeks of federal emergency unemployment benefits for individuals who remain unemployed after they have exhausted their state unemployment benefits. This program has been extended to eligible individuals for up to 24 weeks or until the program expires on March 13, 2021.
- Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) – Provides a weekly stimulus unemployment benefit of $300 to eligible claimants for up to 11 weeks beginning with the week ending Jan. 2, 2021 (paid out the following week of Jan. 3-9, 2021) until the program expires on March 13, 2021.
If an individual's employment has been impacted by COVID-19, they should visit jobs.utah.gov/covid19 for updated information including help for employees and employers returning to work.