CHECK: Can states end their participation in the federal PUA program?
Governor Eric Holcomb announced that benefits in Indiana will end on June 19.
INDIANAPOLIS – Indiana ends its participation in the federal pandemic unemployment benefit program on June 19. More than 20 other states have made similar announcements in recent weeks.
The programs concerned include additional weekly bonus checks of $ 300 as well as unemployment assistance for people who are self-employed or considered to be construction workers. As part of the US bailout bill passed in March, the federal government plans to continue these programs until September 6.
Troy wrote to ask – Does Governor Holcomb have the legal right to prevent Hoosiers from getting federal unemployment benefits approved by Congress?
Yes, it looks like each state can decide whether it will stop offering expanded federal unemployment benefits in the event of a pandemic.
However, there could be a legal challenge related to the termination of benefits for people who do not qualify for regular unemployment benefits, such as on-demand and self-employed workers.
In recent weeks, the governors of 24 states, including Indiana, have announced their intention to end some or all of the additional unemployment benefits provided by the federal government during the pandemic. Most states end benefits in June.
Holcomb announced on May 17 that benefits in Indiana would end on June 19. In addition, it restores the obligation for people receiving unemployment benefits to actively seek full-time work from 1 June.
Indiana is ending four programs:
- Federal Pandemic Unemployment Benefit (FPUC) – Provides an additional $ 300 per week in benefits
- Emergency unemployment benefit in the event of a pandemic (PEUC) – Benefits extended beyond the traditional 26 weeks
- Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) – Benefits granted to workers who are not normally covered by unemployment, such as the self-employed, on-demand workers and independent contractors
- Unemployment Benefit for Mixed Employees (MEUC) – Provides an additional $ 100 to skilled self-employed workers
Speaking at the inauguration of a new headquarters on May 18, Holcomb said, “It’s about getting eligible people back to work, and we want to partner with them.”
He said he knew 116,000 vacancies statewide.
“Every day I hear business owners saying, ‘I’m only posting half of what I could hire right now.’ So we limit growth by keeping people out. So I put it on my shoulders and take responsibility for making sure that we give people access and awareness of the opportunity that presents itself. “
The 24 states which announced the end of the benefits are therefore headed by Republican governors. Many voiced similar concerns about the number of unfilled jobs and the shortage of candidates.
Neither the White House nor the US Department of Labor has argued that states must continue to deliver the unemployment pandemic.
CNN Reports an anonymous official told the network, “There is nothing we can do” to get states to end the benefits.
However, a US senator and a workers’ advocacy group are raising questions about whether states are allowed to end a particular pandemic benefit program – the PUA program that helps workers not covered by regular unemployment insurance. .
US Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) sent a letter at the Ministry of Labor, urging the secretary to find a way to continue to pay at least PUA benefits to these workers and self-employed.
Sanders argued, “The CARES Act requires that you provide PUA benefits to every eligible worker,” and he points to a section that says the “Secretary of Labor” must provide… ”this benefit. Sanders says the CARES Act gives states discretion over many of the pandemic unemployment programs, like the FPUC and PEUC, but he says, “Congress has not given states the ability to withdraw benefits. from the PUA to vulnerable workers. ”
The National Employment Law Project, a workers’ advocacy group, sent a similar letter at the Ministry of Labor.
The NELP and Sanders refer to a memo the former DOL secretary wrote on June 5, 2020 that said, in part, “The Secretary of Labor must provide PUA benefits … Relevant language is not discretionary.” “
The NELP suggests several courses of action for the Ministry of Labor, including forcing states to continue paying the PUA benefit. Another option suggested by the NELP would be to reach an agreement for other states to administer benefits to qualified applicants who live in states that have terminated the payment of PUA benefits.
The NELP also suggests that states that ending payments could “go against” the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Labor Investment Act of 1998. This precipitates the cliff for these workers, ”NELP wrote.
As of May 25, the Department of Labor has taken no public action to force states to continue with PUA or any part of the unemployment pandemic, so it appears that states do indeed have the right to stop providing these benefits. before the federal program is planned. end in September.