DC to provide one-time check to residents on COVID-19 unemployment programs
D.C. will provide a one-time stimulus payment of $1,200 to nearly 20,000 residents whose unemployment benefits are set to expire after Christmas, Mayor Muriel Bowser announced on Dec. 7.
Since March, D.C. residents who lost their job due to the COVID-19 pandemic and would not qualify for traditional unemployment have been able to apply for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA). PUA, which is a provision of the federal CARES Act, provides employees with at least half of the District’s weekly average of benefits, or $179 weekly, starting for wages lost due to the pandemic in January. However, like most of the provisions in the CARES Act, the program is set to expire on Dec. 26, barring the passage of another relief bill by Congress. The plan proposed by the White House drastically cuts unemployment aid.
Given workers on PUA will almost certainly face an end to or drop off in benefits on Dec. 26, Bowser is using some of D.C.’s remaining CARES Act funding to provide them with a direct payment of $1,200 in the coming weeks. Anyone who had applied for PUA in the District by Nov. 30 will receive a payment automatically. Applicants do not need to have been approved by Nov. 30. No additional application is necessary.
“We know many people are struggling and will struggle to get to the end of the year and on the other side when hopefully there is relief,” Bowser said.
Individuals eligible for PUA include those who are self-employed, independent contractors, gig economy workers, those seeking part-time employment, and those who have exhausted benefits under traditional unemployment. DOES has received about 159,000 applications for all forms of unemployment since March, and paid out 100,000 of those claims. While Bowser estimated about 20,000 residents would receive the payment, in a letter to President-elect Joe Biden she estimated about 75,000 residents would lose some form of unemployment with the expiration of the CARES Act.
Tazra Mitchell, the policy director at the D.C. Fiscal Policy Institute, said the announcement was good news for those who may be close to losing benefits, but could not make up fully for the loss of benefits.
“[The D.C. government has] taken other steps to protect workers, so really the ball is in the federal government’s court in a myriad of ways, including UI increases,” Mitchell said.