COVID-19 relief bill to extend federal unemployment benefits

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The federal COVID-19 relief bill, signed into law on Sunday, will provide an extension of Pandemic Unemployment Assistance benefits for up to 11 weeks.

According to a spokesperson for the N.C. Division of Employment Security, the agency is reviewing all the new unemployment provisions of the federal COVID-19 relief bill and preparing to reprogram its system to process claims for the additional benefits.   

“States are awaiting guidance from the U.S. Department of Labor about how to implement the new and extended federal benefits. These benefits cannot be paid until official guidance is received and the benefits system is reprogrammed,” Kerry McComber with the North Carolina Department of Commerce wrote in an email.

For Triad families struggling to pay bills during the COVID-19 pandemic, the announcement is encouraging.

Shon Smith of Winston-Salem said Monday that he’s been waiting for PUA approval since mid-October. He has received other unemployment benefits but lost his job in the restaurant industry in May.

“I saved my money, and that’s what got us through to this day. But the money is getting thin, and the bills are getting heavy,” Smith explained.

He said his family, including two children, has relied on his wife’s salary for three months.

“Unemployment would’ve helped a lot. It would’ve given me more time to go and find a job that that I was looking for,” he said.

Smith is frustrated that it has taken Congress so long to reach a deal to provide stimulus payments and further unemployment assistance.

“If they would’ve stopped for a minute and put themselves in our shoes, we would not be waiting on a stimulus bill to be signed this long,” Smith said. “It’s sickening, and I’m surprised a lot of people aren’t out here robbing, stealing and killing because a lot of people are hurting in this world, and they know this. That’s the sad part about it: they know this.”

A spokesperson for NCDES says they cannot comment on an individual’s claim. But if a claimant is eligible for PUA, they can receive benefits retroactively.

For people currently claiming unemployment benefits:   

  • You should file your weekly certification to claim benefits for the week that ended Dec. 26.   
  • If you are prompted to file a new claim for state unemployment insurance benefits, you may file the new claim. If you see a link to file your weekly certification after submitting your new claim, you should file the weekly certification.  
  • If you do not see a link to file your weekly certification, try clearing your browser history and cache and restarting the browser. If you still do not see a link, you may call the DES Customer Call Center for assistance.  

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