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Three federal unemployment benefit payments restarted in N.C.
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Three federal unemployment benefit payments restarted in N.C.

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Federal unemployment benefit payments are resuming in North Carolina, including the temporary restart of the primary funding program that Congress allowed to expire in July.

The N.C. Division of Employment Security said Wednesday the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) program is providing the $300 a week included in the $908 billion stimulus package that President Donald Trump signed into law Dec. 27.

Payments are retroactive to Dec. 27. They are currently set to expire March 13 unless extended by Congress and President Joe Biden.

When the FPUC weekly benefit was worth up to $600, unemployed and furloughed North Carolinians received just under $4.88 billion from late March through July 26.

Even though the FPUC program has been expired for nearly six months, it still represents 53.3% of all state and federal UI benefit payments in N.C. as of 10 a.m. Wednesday.

The U.S. Labor Department said that "FPUC is not payable with respect to any week during the gap" between July 26 and Dec. 26.

Payments also have resumed for at least 11 weeks for North Carolinians with eligibility remaining for the federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) and Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) programs.

PUA benefits are primarily for independent contractors, self-employed people and people with short work histories who became unemployed because of COVID-19. It is available for people who have to be at home to care for a child whose school has closed because of the virus.

DES said about 47,000 North Carolinians were affected by the temporary expiration of the PEUC and PUA programs.

As of 10 a.m. Wednesday, those programs have paid a combined $1.54 billion in benefits to North Carolinians, or 16.8% of the overall state and federal UI benefits.

DES said it is waiting for U.S. Labor guidance on how to implement the new Mixed Earner Unemployment Compensation program.

That program would provide an additional $100 per week "to eligible claimants who are receiving state unemployment insurance benefits and meet self-employment income requirements."

Claims update

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DES reported North Carolina is nearing 1.4 million initial state and federal UI claims for the pandemic.

There were 9,998 claimed filed Tuesday, following up on 13,802 filed Monday and 15,870 filed Sunday.

The record daily high for the pandemic stands at 43,297 claims filed on Dec. 27 — the day after the PEUC and PUA programs expired.

DES said in a Dec. 27 statement that "the increase in claims filed after Dec. 26 does not indicate ... new claimants entering the system."

Altogether, there have been 3.13 million state and federal UI claims during the pandemic. Some federal programs require filing additional state claims.

About 32% of the 4.37 million North Carolinians considered part of the state’s workforce as of mid-November have filed a state or federal unemployment claim.

North Carolina is at $9.16 billion for state and federal UI benefit payments to unemployed and furloughed individuals. About 80% of the payments since late March, or $7.34 billion, have come from federal funds.

After $8.16 billion in state and federal UI benefits were paid from late March through Sept. 30, there had been just $990 million since Oct. 1.

DES began reporting Oct. 23 the statewide totals from the temporary $50 increase in regular state UI payments, raising the maximum weekly benefit from $350 to $400. That program, which paid out $134.6 million, was allowed to expire by the legislature on Dec. 26.

Beginning Jan. 3, North Carolinians can draw up to 16 weeks of regular state UI benefits over a 12-month period. Before Jan. 3, 12 was the maximum number of regular state UI benefit weeks.

Regular state UI payments are at $1.81 billion, with only about $100 million being paid out since Oct. 1.

Most unemployed and furloughed North Carolinians exhausted their 12 weeks of regular state UI benefits well before Oct. 1.

The state had $3.85 billion in the state UI Trust Fund in mid-March. State legislators said Sept. 2 that between $2.9 billion and $3 billion remained in the fund at that time. The third COVID-19 relief bill added $87 million.

The current federal extended benefits program has paid out $203.7 million overall. Those payments last up to six weeks. Those benefits are available to certain UI claimants who have exhausted up to 12 weeks of regular state UI benefits and up to 13 weeks of federal PECU payments.

The federal payments include $591.3 million from a projected $716.6 million from six weeks' worth of federal Lost Wages Assistance funding. There have been just $20.86 million in payments since Oct. 1.

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@rcraverWSJ

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