For Immediate Release: April 14, 2020
Information Contact: Georgia Smith, (208) 332-3570 ext. 2102
Idahoans currently receiving unemployment insurance benefits could start seeing the additional $600 federal benefit authorized by Congress under the CARES Act by the end of April.
“We’re making progress on a huge backlog of claims and sending payments out to the people of Idaho,” said Idaho Department of Labor Director Jani Revier. “We still have a lot to do to make sure the funds are administered correctly, but we are making progress.”
The department received as many initial claims for benefits in three weeks – 77,430 – than it received during all of 2019, creating a tremendous backlog of work. However, benefit payments are flowing. The agency paid out $17.95 million in benefits to Idahoans whose jobs are impacted by COVID-19 from March 23 to April 10.
The agency will start processing $600 Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation benefit payments in the next two weeks. People currently filing or receiving benefits under the state’s regular unemployment insurance program already qualify for the additional $600 and do not need to take further action. The benefit is retroactive to March 29, 2020, and ends with the week ending July 25, 2020.
Implementing the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance will take a little more time according to Revier. The program is for the self-employed, contract employees and other people not ordinarily eligible for unemployment benefits. The new U.S. Department of Labor program requires the Idaho Department of Labor to make significant system upgrades to process payments, and state officials expect it will be May before payments occur. The state also expects more guidance from the USDOL before it can administer the federally funded benefit, which is retroactive to Feb. 2, 2020, and ends Dec. 26, 2020.
Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation allows for an additional 13 weeks of benefits added to the end of regular unemployment benefits. This means claimants may collect unemployment benefits for a longer time than under normal circumstances. This program is also federally funded, retroactive to March 29, 2020, and ends Dec. 26, 2020. The department needs to upgrade its system for this program as well, however Revier anticipates payments will start later this month.
Answers to frequently asked questions (FAQs) about COVID-19 and applying for unemployment insurance can be found at https://idahoatwork.com/2020/03/18/faqs-about-unemployment-insurance-and-covid-19/
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We are now calling back claimants from 4-6 p.m. daily to resolve issues preventing payment and process claims more quickly. It may take several days, but more than 800 issues were cleared in just two hours during a test run last week. For short-term assistance, we have compiled a list of resources on this webpage: https://www.labor.idaho.gov/dnn/COVID-19. Hopefully, that helps.