Expansion of Unemployment Insurance: Changes under COVID-19


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The CARES Act (Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security) was signed into law on Friday, March 27, 2020. It contained $2.2 trillion in emergency assistance, including enhanced unemployment benefits, as well as direct cash payments to qualifying individuals (economic impact payments), loans to small businesses, provisions to address medical supply shortages, extended funding and authorization for various health care programs, and targeted assistance to specific sectors of the economy.

On December 27, 2020, President Donald Trump signed into law a major coronavirus stimulus package along with an annual spending bill. Among the provisions of the stimulus package was an extension of federal unemployment benefits through March 14, 2021, as well as a weekly additional $300 cash benefit for recipients of both regular Unemployment benefits and Pandemic Unemployment Assistance.

On March 11th, President Joseph Biden signed into law the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) of 2021, a $1.9 trillion COVID-19 pandemic relief package. Among other provisions, the ARP extends federal unemployment benefits through September 6, 2021, and includes an additional $300 weekly for claimants of regular Unemployment Insurance benefits, as well as claimants of Pandemic Unemployment Assistance. In addition, the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation benefit has been extended and now provides up to 53 weeks of additional unemployment benefits to eligible individuals who have exhausted the unemployment benefits under state law through September 6, 2021.


The CARES Act expanded Unemployment Insurance Benefits through three different programs:

  • Pandemic Unemployment Assistance – expands the type of worker that can qualify for Unemployment Insurance;
  • Pandemic Unemployment Compensation – increases the amount of weekly benefits a qualifying individual may receive;
  • Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation – increases the number of weeks a qualifying individual can receive benefits.


NYS Extended Benefits

In addition to the expansion of Unemployment Insurance during the COVID-19 pandemic under the CARES Act, Extended Benefits (EB) are also available to claimants when their state’s rate of unemployment is at a certain level. NYS has reached these levels and is available to qualifying claimants. See below, Extended Benefits.

Shared Work Program

The NYS Shared Work Program allows employers to keep employees and avoid layoffs by allowing staff members to receive partial Unemployment Insurance benefits for up to 26 weeks while staff continue to work at reduced hours. Full-time, part-time and seasonal employees may qualify. See below, Shared Work Program.

The Benefits Plus Learning Center’s Response to the Covid-19 Pandemic

The information found in the COVID-19 section of Benefits Plus is available at no cost from the Community Service Society of New York in an effort to support professionals who are working with vulnerable population groups during this emergency.

Caution: The information contained in this chapter is subject to change as federal, state and local governments implement laws and policies. Changes are occurring rapidly and as the U.S. Congress and New York State pass new laws and procedures we make every attempt to keep the information up to date. As the Learning Center learns of these changes we review and update the information herein; however, we do not claim that all changes and updates have been captured. Readers are able to view what the Learning Center has captured by clicking on “Show Updates” in the upper right-hand corner of the title bar of each chapter.

Many of the programs and benefits that are covered in the COVID-19 section of Benefits Plus are programs and benefits that existed before the Coronavirus pandemic. Changes to the program or benefit or the relaxation of the rules vary by program and are temporary. To access information on a particular benefit, you must subscribe to the Benefits Plus. For subscription information click here. To learn more about Benefits Plus, visit: https://bplc.cssny.org/pbm.