Q & A: The American Rescue Plan and DC Workers
What’s In It for Me?
The American Rescue Plan will bring 2.2 billion federal dollars over the next three years to the District of Columbia, including extensions of various unemployment compensation programs. If you received Unemployment Insurance (UI) or Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) in 2020 and have not returned to work, you are likely eligible for the additional benefits in the American Rescue Plan. Typically, unemployment benefits can last up to a year, but the American Rescue Plan extends UI beyond the traditional year timeframe.
The American Rescue Plan continues through September 2021 the $300/week supplemental payment to UI and PUA recipients that was made available beginning in late December 2020.
Here’s how the plan will impact you if you collect unemployment compensation, broken out by program and extensions:
If You Currently Receive Unemployment Insurance (UI):
You will be able to extend your benefits through September 6, 2021 even if your benefit year has ended or is close to ending. The first phase of Unemployment Insurance lasts 26 weeks; when that ends you need to apply for UI extensions. The first extension you are eligible for is Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC). You can do that here.
- If You Currently Extend UI through PEUC: You will be able to extend PEUC for up to 53 weeks or through September 6, 2021. If you currently receive PEUC, you do not need to do anything to remain on PEUC. If you were in the last week of PEUC mid-March, you might not have been able to file your weekly certification. Please contact the Department of Employment Services (DOES) to file. We know this is frustrating.
- If You Currently Extend UI through Extended Benefits (EB): In non-COVID times, EB is a 13-or 20-week extension that is triggered when D.C. experiences high rates of unemployment. Before the American Rescue Plan was enacted, EB extended unemployment after claimants exhausted weeks allowed under PEUC. If you are currently in EB, and you can see that in your claimant portal under “Extended Benefits,” then when the current period of EB ends, you will be transitioned back to PEUC. You do not need to re-apply for UI or PEUC. If you were in the last week of EB mid-March, you might not have been able to file your weekly certification. Please contact DOES to file. We know this is frustrating.
If You Currently Receive Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA):
Your PUA benefits will be extended for up to 79 weeks or until September 6, 2021. PUA provides weekly income replacement for contractors, gig workers, and other workers ineligible for traditional unemployment insurance. If you receive PUA, extended it through PEUC, and were in the last week of PEUC mid-March, you might not have been able to file your weekly certification. Please contact DOES. We know this is frustrating.
I collected UI or PUA but my payments stopped the week of March 14. What is happening?
March 14 is when UI and PUA benefits transitioned from those passed during the Trump administration to the American Rescue Plan passed during the Biden administration. Claimants who were in the 26th week of UI, or in the final week of PEUC, EB, or PUA put in place during the Trump administration were impacted because the UI system needs to be updated and re-coded to reflect the new American Rescue Plan extensions. DOES says this work will be completed by the week of April 12, 2021. If you are one of those claimants impacted, we know you are frustrated. Please contact DOES at 202-724-7000 if you fit this category and need help with payments and weekly certification. Let us know if you need help.
Why does the DOES call-taker tell me there are IT issues?
The technology system D.C. uses to administer unemployment is decades-old. Every change in benefits requires programmers to write new code and make sure the system is working properly so claims are correctly paid. It is a cumbersome process. The agency is also currently in the process of building a new, modern UI technology system but it will not be completed until 2022. Until then, it is frustrating to wait for changes to be made. DOES says that they expect the changes needed to implement the American Rescue Plan to be completed by the week of April 12. Once the system is updated, claimants will be able to file their claims for weeks while the updates were being made.
I cannot file my weekly certification. What should I do and why did this happen?
Likely you are one of the claimants whose benefits were about to expire the week of March 14. You need to be transitioned to the American Rescue Plan extensions. The necessary updates are ongoing but should be completed by the week of April 12, 2021, and claimants who were unable to certify for the weeks in between can do it then. Claimants who cannot certify online can contact DOES by phone for additional help.
When I look at my claimant profile, I see $0 in my account. What is going on?
You may have reached the end of one of the UI or PUA programs or extensions; however, these programs were extended by the American Rescue Plan.
My benefit year has ended. Do I need to re-apply for UI?
No. If you have not returned to work and/or earned income over the last year, you will automatically be eligible to keep certifying for benefits until September 6, 2020. Please note that some claimant portals are awaiting necessary updates so they can access and submit weekly certification claims.
I have earned income over the last year. What should I do?
Report earnings from work in your weekly certification form as requested. This includes wages (including as an independent contractor), pensions, and severance. The income may impact your benefit payment and eligibility.
I earned money both as a consultant and as a W-2 worker. I heard I can only collect UI. Why can’t I get wage replacement for both?
Now you can -- through the Mixed Earners Unemployment Compensation (MEUC) program. MEUC provides an additional $100 per week to those receiving UI but who have also earned at least $5,000 in self-employed income in the previous calendar year. Apply here.
Do I have to pay taxes on the unemployment compensation I earned in 2020?
For the 2020 tax year, individual filers will not have to pay federal or DC taxes on UI benefits up to $10,200. Married couples who both received UI and file jointly do not have to pay taxes on up to $20,400 of UI -- this applies to households with adjusted gross income of up to $150,000.