Update: On August 8th, President Donald Trump signed an executive order to distribute an additional $300 per week in federal unemployment benefits through the Lost Wages Assistance program. Congress still hasn’t agreed on a relief bill.
Although some sports have returned, the majority still haven’t restarted. Some of the leagues that have returned are facing challenges with coronavirus cases causing cancellations from Little League all the way to MLB. With so few games being played, many referees and umpires are still out of work.
Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation Expiration
At the end of March, the CARES Act was signed, making sports officials and other independent contractors eligible for unemployment aid including an extra $600 per week. This additional $600 per week was added as part of the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) program which is set to expire on July 31st. Despite the official expiration date of July 31st, most will see the benefit end on July 25th.
According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the $600 can be paid for weeks ending no later than the week ending prior to Friday, July 31, 2020. For all states except New York, that is Saturday, July 25th. New York’s end date is Sunday, July 26th.
Over 25 million workers will be impacted by this benefit loss, according to estimates by The Century Foundation. About 9 million of those people are receiving the benefit through the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program, which specifically covers independent contractors (including sports officials), business owners, and the self-employed who aren’t typically eligible for unemployment. While the FPUC is set to end this month, the PUA program will run until at least the end of 2020.
Congress is currently negotiating to find agreement between two proposed coronavirus relief bills: the HEALS Act and HEROS Act. Both include multiple proposals related to pandemic related assistance, but the specifics as it relates to additional weekly unemployment payments are outlined below.
The HEALS Act, which stands for Health, Economic Assistance, Liability Protection and Schools, may include additional unemployment assistance. The proposal would reduce the $600 extra unemployment benefit to $200 through September. After that, it would be replaced with a payment of up to $500 to equal 70% of an individual’s previous wages when combined with the state’s weekly unemployment benefit.
The proposal also includes the option for states that are unable to provide a second payment tied to lost wages by October 5th to apply for a waiver from the Department of Labor to continue paying a fixed dollar amount for up to two months. As we’ve seen before, any change to the current unemployment process will likely result in significant delays so it’s likely that many states will apply for the waiver.
As drafted in the HEALS Act, three unemployment policies created in March, including a weekly unemployment boost, a wider pool of eligibility, and a 13-week extension on top of state aid, will all expire December 31, 2020.
The HEROS Act keeps enhanced unemployment payments at $600 per week through January 2021. It also extends how long independent contractors and other works made eligible for unemployment under the PUA can be eligible for benefits from December 2020 in the CARES Act through March 2021.
For now it’s unclear when another relief bill will pass and if it does, whether it will look more like the HEALS Act or the HEROS Act.