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Boscola Bulletin

Unemployment Compensation UPDATE 

The Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry(L&I) is implementing new federal unemployment compensation benefits provided by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. The COVID-19 relief package temporarily provides an additional $600 per week, makes self-employed, independent contractors and gig workers eligible for benefits and extends unemployment compensation (UC) benefits for an additional 13 weeks. 

The federal benefits are in addition to Pennsylvania’s regular unemployment benefit which is about half of a person’s full-time weekly income up to $572 per week for 26 weeks. 

Additional $600 Per Week 

FPUC frequently asked questionsAs part of the CARES Act, unemployment benefits are being expanded to provide an additional $600 per week beginning the week ending April 4, 2020 through the week ending July 25, 2020. This temporary emergency increase in benefits is referred to as the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) program. 

Last week, L&I issued the first $600 payments. All eligible claimants that filed biweekly claims for the week ending April 4 and who received their regular UC payment should expect to see the additional money either Tuesday or Wednesday. For other eligible claimants who have not yet received a regular UC payment, they will receive the extra $600 the week after receiving their first UC payment. 

It is very important to note that anyone who currently has federal withholding tax taken out of their benefits will see the same 10% reduction in the FPUC payment, resulting in a $540 payment. For information about changing your withholding election visit L&I’s Taxes on Benefits page. 

The $600 is paid separately from the biweekly UC benefit, and residents do not need to apply.  

Visit the department’s FPUC frequently asked questions for more information. 

Self-employed, Contractors or Gig Economy Workers 

The CARES Act also temporarily makes unemployment compensation available to self-employed, independent contractors, gig economy workers, and others not normally eligible for the benefit. The program is referred to as Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA). These workers cannot apply through the department’s UC online system at this time. The U.S. Department of Labor requires that PUA be tracked separately from regular UC. For this reason, Pennsylvania must build a new online platform to process PUA benefits.   

Eligible individuals should be able to start applying for PUA benefits within the next two weeks. Eligible claimants will receive backdated payments to January 27, 2020, or the first week they were unable to work due to COVID-19, whichever of the two dates is later. The PUA benefit will end December 31, 2020. The department will announce when the PUA benefit application is available. 

 Visit L&I’s PUA frequently asked questions for more information. 

13-Week Benefit Extension  

The CARES Act provides an additional 13 weeks of unemployment compensation, including for workers who exhaust their regular unemployment benefits. Claimants will be eligible for Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) from the week beginning March 29, 2020 through the end of the year. The department is awaiting additional federal guidance about the program and will provide an update when information is available. 

Additional Information for workers impacted by COVID-19: 

On March 27, Governor Tom Wolf signed a law that makes applying for unemployment compensation easier to access by waiving the one week waiting period to file, as well as the job search and work registration requirements, among other changes. 

$450 Million in PENNVEST Funding Authorized to Aid Hospital and Health Care Systems in Response to COVID-19 Pandemic 

Sen. Lisa BoscolaLast week, I was proud to announce that the Pennsylvania Infrastructure Investment Authority (PENNVEST) Board of Directors, of which I am a member, held an emergency meeting to take action on the state’s ongoing response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The board voted on a resolution to authorize up to $450 million in bridge funding to hospitals and health systems in Pennsylvania that need financial help in preparing for any potential increases in patient traffic related to COVID-19. 

“This action today utilizes PENNVEST funds to go out to hospitals that need it now, so that they can continue to provide essential life-saving services and obtain supplies such as personal protective equipment (PPE) for frontline healthcare workers,” said State Senator Lisa Boscola (D-Northampton). 

“PENNVEST sits on a pool of money – money that’s purpose is to provide low-interest loans and grants to municipalities for water, wastewater and sediment run-off mitigation projects – and there’s enough reserve to tap into some of that and get money to the hospitals. Federal dollars have been approved under the CARES Act, but some hospitals need the financial capital now,” Boscola added. 

Under the agreement, PENNVEST would extend up to $450 million in loan funds to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. The Department of Community and Economic Development would administer the fund, and life-sustaining health care facilities would be able to obtain a bridge loan to continue preparing and stocking the needed supplies and materials to help in the treatment of patients. Repayments to PENNVEST would be made back by the Commonwealth and applicants by September 30, 2020 with an interest rate of 0.5% on any borrowed funds. 

“We have this money sitting here, and we have a dire need to get money to hospitals until federal dollars arrive, this is outside-the-box thinking and it’s what we as a state have to do to help get us through the worse to come with this pandemic,” Boscola said. 

Know Your Rights: PA Attorney General Releases Rights & Resources Guide for Pennsylvanians During COVID-19 Emergency 

Rights & Resources Guide for Pennsylvanians During COVID-19 Emergency Pennsylvania’s Attorney General recently released a new guide advising Pennsylvanians of their rights, protections, and supportive programs available to the over one million recently unemployed Pennsylvanians who have been impacted by the COVID-19 emergency.

The rights and resources guide details benefits available to Pennsylvanians during the COVID-19 emergency, including: 

  • Guaranteed access to utilities like heat, water, and electricity; 
  • Moratorium on evictions, foreclosures, and auto repossessions; 
  • Grace period for paying student loans; 
  • Grace period for paying home and auto loans; 
  • Waived payments from banks for late and overdraft fees; 
  • Expanded unemployment eligibility to gig workers, contract workers who use 1099 forms to pay, workers with previously inadequate employment history, and part time workers; 
  • Increased unemployment benefits, roughly double the previously available; 
  • And up to 2 weeks paid-leave for individuals caring for a sick family member or child whose school has closed. 

The guide is available to Pennsylvanians, and contains information about who to contact for each of the benefits and protections it discusses. 

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Offices of State Senator Lisa M. Boscola

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Bethlehem, PA 18018
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