DC Council Passes Bill Extending Unemployment Benefits

Elissa Silverman Introduces Legislation Extending UI By 7 Weeks

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Councilmember Elissa Silverman (I-At Large) is pictured in this screenshot from an April 7 meeting. Screenshot: DC Granicus

On Oct. 20, the DC Council unanimously passed emergency legislation introduced by Councilmember Elissa Silverman (I-At-Large) to extend unemployment compensation by seven additional weeks for all eligible claimants.

Since the declaration of the coronavirus public health emergency, more than 150,000 District workers have filed for unemployment compensation. The emergency legislation will apply the tens of thousands of contractors and gig workers receiving weekly benefits through the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA), by extending the program from 39 to 46 weeks.

“We need to use every tool we have to put dollars into the pockets of our workers to help them survive this pandemic,” Silverman said. “This legislation uses federal funds to expand relief to workers and puts the District in the company of many other states which have already turned on this benefit extension. I want to thank my colleagues for supporting this important legislation to help DC workers in their time of greatest need.”

The Unemployment Benefits Extension Emergency Act of 2020 allows DC to provide seven additional weeks of benefits during a high unemployment period to all District workers receiving unemployment benefits, including those not served by traditional Unemployment Insurance (UI). PUA currently lasts for 39 weeks – for workers who started claiming PUA benefits in January, this is week 39, their final week of benefits.

The emergency legislation extends traditional UI for an additional 7 weeks as well. Right now, UI claimants can apply to extend their initial 26 weeks of benefits for up to one year (52 weeks) with two 13-week extension programs. With the emergency legislation, UI claimants will be eligible for up to 59 weeks of benefits.

The additional weeks of benefits are fully paid for by the federal government through December 31, 2020 with funds from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.

“We put the pedal to the metal to get this legislation worked out, and I want to thank Director Unique Morris-Hughes and her agency for working closely with the Council’s Labor Committee to get this over the finish line,” Silverman said. “This extension will keep DC workers from falling off a financial cliff.”

The 13-week extensions are not automatic! UI claimants need to apply and fill out an application to receive extended support.

If you have exhausted both your initial 26 weeks of UI benefits and your 13-week PEUC extension, you are eligible for an additional 13 weeks of benefits through the Extended Benefits (EB) program.

You can apply for EB at the end of the 13-week PEUC extension by going to does.dcnetworks.org/initialclaims and following the prompts.