SOURCE: News release from Indiana Department of Workforce Development
INDIANAPOLIS – As of April 21, Hoosiers who are receiving regular unemployment insurance benefits have begun seeing the additional $600 weekly payment from the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) program, ahead of the announced date of April 20, according to the Indiana Department of Workforce Development (DWD).
Though the additional funds began arriving in some unemployment insurance accounts last Friday, the vast majority of claimants will see payments being made this week (April 21). Vouchers must be filed each week in order to continue to receive benefits. It is recommended to file the vouchers on a Tuesday or after during the week, taking the high stress off the historic traffic now hitting the DWD’s Uplink online system.
The CARES Act FPUC provides those individuals with the additional $600 weekly benefit. FPUC is payable effective March 29, 2020, for any week of unemployment until July 31, 2020. DWD will pay this benefit retroactively to March 29. The $600 FPUC benefit is taxable and is subject to child support withholding.
“We are pleased that we were able to start getting these payments to out-of-work Hoosiers ahead of our goal of April 20,” DWD Commissioner Fred Payne said. “This federal assistance will further help those individuals who are not working due to the COVID-19 pandemic.”
To put these payments into perspective, this past weekend alone, Friday through Sunday as the FPUC payments were starting to be added, $276 million in payments were made over the three-day period. In all of 2019, $230 million was paid out through the Indiana unemployment insurance assistance program.
Getting Started – 21 Days Reminder
It typically takes up to 21 days for first-time claims to be paid if there are no issues on the claim. A claimant can view their Uplink Claimant Homepage to check for issues on their claim. If there is an issue, a DWD Claims Investigator will be assigned to analyze the claim. DWD is advising claimants with issues on their claims to not contact the call center to check on the status of their claims, as that only adds to the already large volume of calls the center is experiencing.
Update on Self-Employed Assistance Program – PUA
Additionally, the CARES Act Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) creates a temporary federal unemployment insurance program for individuals not otherwise eligible for UI benefits, including the self-employed, independent contractors, gig economy workers, those seeking part-time employment, and individuals lacking sufficient work history but who would be able to work and looking for work were it not due to COVID-19.
PUA is not payable to individuals who have the ability to telework with pay or who are receiving paid sick leave or other paid leave benefits.
The new federal program requires an entire new system to be designed and built from the ground up. DWD is integrating the new system into Uplink so that these benefits can be provided as quickly and efficiently as possible to impacted Hoosiers. PUA applications will be available in Uplink on April 24 to those who have already applied for and been denied regular UI benefits. PUA applications will be available to others as soon as they apply for and are denied regular UI. DWD will be able to begin making PUA payments in May.
What is PEUC? 13 Additional Weeks
In addition to the FPUC and FPUA programs, the CARES Act also provides the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation program, which is an additional 13 weeks of unemployment insurance benefits once benefits are exhausted for traditional claimants. This program is not yet available. Once available, eligible claimants will access weekly vouchers through the Uplink system.
Best Day to Apply?
The claims week runs from Sunday through Saturday. Most claimants file their initial claims and weekly vouchers on Sunday, followed closely by Monday. Claims can be filed any day of the week, and those filing on Tuesday or after will have a faster, less congested experience filing than those who file on Sunday or Monday. The extreme high volume the beginning of each week can result in maximum capacity and speed issues. It is recommended to file mid-week through Saturday for the optimal filing experience.
DWD’s current Uplink on-line system launched in 2010 and has been re-designed over the years to withstand the unprecedented volume presented by the current demand, and has met the challenge of the record amount of filings. Certain caps on the system have been put into place to limit user level at any given time. When that peak is reached, safeguards trigger a notice instructing the user visiting the site to try again later, which can be same day, or the next. As several state unemployment agencies around the country are reporting crashes to their unemployment systems due to the unprecedented demands, these preventative measures have been put in place to help protect the integrity of the Uplink system and to allow the process from successful filing to payment to continue without interruption.
Since Gov. Holcomb directed all bars and restaurants to close on March 16, more than 450,000 Hoosiers have successfully filed for unemployment. Further, roughly 432,000 unemployment insurance claims have been paid for the two-week period of April 1-14, and that number continues to rise, and will do so at a greater pace with the addition of the CARES Act additional benefits.
A record 22 million Americans have filed for unemployment benefits in the four weeks through April 11. With so many individuals across the country out of work, states are seeing an increase in attempts to defraud their unemployment systems.
Anyone purposely or intentionally providing false information, misrepresenting the truth, or failing to provide full information in making a selection or completing this claim for benefits is committing fraud. If anyone is found to have committed fraud, they will be ineligible for any benefits, and DWD will institute collections proceedings against them to recover any benefits obtained through fraud. They also may be subject to federal and state criminal prosecution.
New Videos Released
DWD has released a new set of simple how-to videos to assist the user experience for claimants. The new video collection can be found here: https://on.in.gov/uivids.
The most up-to-date information on the new UI programs can be found at www.Unemployment.IN.gov.