Unemployment Insurance Updates, January 2021

Unemployment Insurance Updates, January 2021

January 27, 2021 —

What is the current status of Unemployment Benefits?

On December 27, 2020, the President signed into law the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021, including Division N, Title II, Subtitle A (Continued Assistance Act or the “Act”).

The Act amends certain provisions of previous legislation and, in particular, addresses continuing federal aid to states to extend and enhance Unemployment Insurance (UI) benefits to those persons who are unemployed or underemployed during the ongoing COVID-19 Pandemic.

What Changes Are Likely to Affect Flight Attendants Who Are Eligible for UI Benefits?

Extension of Weeks of eligibility

The first change is to extend the maximum period for benefit eligibility from 39 weeks to 50 weeks.

To see how this would affect you, you need to start with the base term for receiving benefits in the state where you work.  In most states the base term is 26 weeks. But, some states, like Florida, have a shorter base term. Florida’s base term is 12 weeks.

The CARES Act added an additional 13 weeks to the state base term. For most states that results in the 39-week maximum term of eligibility to receive benefits.

The Act adds an additional 11 weeks to the extended maximum of 39 weeks.  So, the new maximum term is 50 weeks, if you start with a state base term of 26 weeks. 26 + 13 + 11 = 50

Weekly Benefit Enhancement of $300

You may recall that the CARES Act provided a federal enhancement of $600 per week to the state benefit that an applicant received. As long as an applicant for UI was determined to be eligible for at least $1/week of state benefit, that applicant also would receive the federal enhancement of $600/week.

The Act signed on December 27, 2020 similarly provides a federal enhancement to the state benefit but this time the amount is only $300 per week to any applicant who is determined to be eligible for at least $1 of state benefit.

This additional $300 per week in most cases will continue to be available to eligible applicants through the benefit week ending on March 13 or March 14, 2021, depending on what day of the week your state starts the benefit period.

When Do the Additional $300 per Week Payments Start?

Because there was a delay in the President signing the Act, there was some uncertainty about when the additional federal funds would be available and whether one week of the 11 additional weeks might be lost.

The current guidance is that no week will be lost but that once an applicant is determined by his or her state to be eligible for a state benefit, there will be retroactive payments of both state and the federal $300 enhancement, as appropriate.

Here are the states that have already begun issuing or processing the $300 weekly unemployment enhancement as of Tuesday, January 5, 2021:



California (available only to those on regular state benefits or the Federal-State Extended Duration program)



Washington, DC











New Hampshire

New York

North Carolina


Rhode Island



West Virginia

Workers in several states, including New York, California and Arizona, began receiving the federal enhancement on January 4, 2021, while other states plan to issue the federal enhancement throughout the week.

There is a state-by-state tracker that is updated every few hours -- UnemploymentPUA.com. According to that site, some states have posted announcements stating that they will begin issuing the federal $300 enhancement next week.  These states include:

California (for those on PUA or PEUC)


South Carolina




As we saw after the CARES Act, states experience varying degrees of difficulty when having to reprogram their UI software, so it is likely that there will be variations in time frames for processing claims and sending out payments among the states. Current predictions are that most eligible applicants can expect to see the $300 enhancement in mid-January. Applicants who claim eligibility after having exhausted the prior maximum term may encounter additional delays.

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