On December 21, 2020 Congress passed the Consolidated Appropriations Act 2021, signed into law December 27, 2020. This Act continued, and in some ways expanded, the unemployment benefits available to individuals. It removed the mandates for employer provided sick leave and family medical leave, but extended the employer tax credits through March 31, 2021.
The Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program eligibility was increased from 39 weeks to 50 weeks. The eligibility period is through March 14, 2021, with payments to be made by April 5, 2021. There are additional documentation requirements for applicants (check with the WA Employment Security Department for details when applying). There is a new benefit called Mixed Earner unemployment Compensation which allows an additional $100 in weekly benefits for eligible workers who are both self-employed and employed by an employer.
Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation allowed an additional $600 per week of benefits through July 31, 2020. The new Act now allows an additional $300 per week through March 14, 2021 (this payment is not retroactive, so an individual cannot get “backpay” for weeks they collected between August 1 and December 26, 2020 and did not receive the supplemental benefit). Again, the eligibility period is extended to March 14, 2021 and the total eligibility increased to 50 weeks.
Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation increased the regular unemployment eligibility limits from 26 weeks to 39 weeks. The new Act also increased this allotment to 50 weeks.
SICK LEAVE and FAMILY MEDICAL LEAVE
The new Act removed the requirement that employers provide up to 2 weeks (80 hours) of paid sick leave and up to 12 weeks of family medical leave for COVID-19 related reasons. The new Act has allowed employers to continue to take tax credits for providing this leave through March 31, 2021. So, employers can voluntarily provide this leave to workers during this period. There are no changes to the qualifying reasons for either leave program, to the amount of leave that can be taken, or to the documentation required. However, if an employer has a policy resetting family medical leave eligibility with the calendar year, there is strong argument for workers being eligible for an additional 12 weeks of family medical leave even if up to 12 weeks was taken in 2020.
See our prior article on COVID-19 resources for workers and businesses for additional information and links to the relevant government agencies like the WA Employment Security Department.
The full text of the new Act can be found here. With FAQs from the Department of Labor found here.
Disclaimer: This article and blog are intended to inform the reader of general legal principles applicable to the subject area. They are not intended to provide legal advice regarding specific problems or circumstances. Readers should consult with competent counsel with regard to specific situations.
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