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CARES unemployment benefits coming near end

Many Tennesseans currently receiving unemployment benefits through programs funded by the CARES Act could be nearing the end of their weekly payments. The last day to claim benefits through these federal programs is December 26, 2020. According to federal program rules, many claimants could see their benefits stop before that date if they reach the maximum number of allowable weeks.

The state of Tennessee currently provides unemployment benefits through four separate programs, two of which are new federal programs receive created under the CARES Act.
* Tennessee Unemployment Compensation (TUC) – This state program provides benefits to eligible claimants having the required amount of wages earned from a covered Tennessee employer in the applicable base period. Employers pay the premiums that fund the program and individuals earn eligibility through a wage-earning work history. This program provides a maximum of 26 weeks of benefits during the claimant’s benefit year.

* Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) – This CARES Act program provides benefits to eligible claimants not having wages earned from a covered Tennessee employer and who are not working due to the COVID-19 pandemic. PUA is available to workers not traditionally covered by unemployment insurance, including self-employed individuals, contract workers, and gig workers. An individual out of work due to a covered COVID-19 qualifying event could also be eligible for PUA. This program lasts for up to a maximum of 39 weeks and PUA claimants are not eligible for any extended benefits programs. Per current federal law, this program ends December 26, 2020.

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* Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) – This CARES Act program provides eligible claimants up to an additional 13 weeks of unemployment after exhausting benefits in the TUC program. Per current federal law, this program ends December 26, 2020.
* Extended Benefits (EB) – This federal program provides eligible claimants up to 13 weeks of additional unemployment after exhausting benefits in both the TUC and PEUC programs. The U.S. Dept. of Labor (USDOL) can end Tennessee’s EB program with little notice to the state or claimants.

Under the CARES Act, claimants who began receiving benefits through the PUA program early in its inception will begin reaching the maximum 39 weeks of payments in the coming weeks. All PUA claimants will receive benefits only through December 26, 2020. The state encourages claimants to continue searching for work so they can secure employment before their benefits end. Once a claimant exhausts benefits on the PUA program, they are not eligible for any other unemployment program.

If the Department determines the eligibility of a claim after Dec. 26, if approved, the claimant will retroactively receive applicable payments for all weeks with a completed certification through the program’s ending date.

Claimants receiving extended benefits through PEUC need to keep in mind this program will stop after the week ending Dec. 26, 2020.

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The EB program will end whenever USDOL determines Tennessee’s economic recovery has reached a threshold where the program is no longer needed. This has already taken place in several states.

The Reemploy Tennessee initiative makes many resources available to job seekers to help them make the transition back into the state’s workforce. integrates Tennessee’s unemployment system with its workforce development system to streamline the process of finding work. The site’s database has over 200,000 current job openings and provides help with resume writing, job interview techniques, and other skills that will guide individuals through reemployment.

For one-on-one assistance, career specialists at Tennessee’s more than 80 American Job Centers can work with claimants to provide customized job searches, information on virtual job fairs, Reemployment Services and Eligibility Assessment (RESEA) appointments, and assistance determining if job training assistance is available

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The state offers these services at no cost to the job seeker.

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