On March 17, 2020, Washington D.C. Council unanimously passed and Mayor Muriel Bowser signed the Covid-19 Response Emergency Amendment Act of 2020. The emergency legislation temporarily revises D.C.’s Unemployment Compensation Program as follows:

  • Waives the work-search requirement for individuals receiving unemployment insurance (UI)
  • Expands eligibility for UI to include individuals who are unemployed or partially unemployed due to circumstances stemming from COVID-19. This coverage includes employees who are unemployed because the employer ceased or reduced operations because of an order by the Mayor or a reduction in business revenue.
  • Provides unemployment benefits for employees who are unable to work because they are quarantined or isolated by a District or federal public health agency or who are required to self-quarantine or isolate based on recommendations from such an agency or a medical professional.

An employer’s experience rating will not be charged due to benefits paid to employees who are now unemployed or temporarily out of work for reasons directly related to COVID-19 (e.g., the business must shut down temporarily because of a suspected COVID contamination). However, if an employer lays off employees because of decreased revenue or a business slowdown not directly linked to COVID-19, the standard employer charges will apply.

The D.C. Department of Employment Services (DOES) temporarily waived the waiting week period, so individuals who are out of work may apply for benefits immediately. In D.C., the maximum weekly benefit eligible applicants may receive is $444. As explained below, the CARES Act also provides claimants an additional $600 per week.

CARES Act & Pandemic Unemployment Assistance

The CARES Act, passed by Congress in March 2020, created Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) to provide benefits for workers not traditionally eligible for unemployment including, gig workers, individuals who are self-employed, or have insufficient work history. D.C. recently launched a new application to process PUA claims. According to the DOES website, PUA applicants must first file for regular unemployment benefits and be denied before completing the PUA Application.

Also, the CARES Act established Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC), providing all unemployment claimants—both those receiving regular UI benefits or PUA— $600 per week, in addition to any unemployment compensation received.

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