(Washington, DC) – Today, Mayor Muriel Bowser announced an additional $11 million to go to the District of Columbia Department of Employment Services (DOES) to help fund additional staff as well as an update on system modifications taking place to adhere to the Continued Assistance for Unemployed Workers Act (CAA). With over 171,000 new unemployment claims since March 13, 2020, DOES continues to work relentlessly to ensure the agency is meeting community needs and rising to the challenge of more efficiently serving District workers.
“We know that as our battle against this virus continues, thousands of our residents continue to face economic hardship,” said Mayor Bowser. “By investing in our unemployment insurance program, we can improve our systems, help eligible residents enroll, and efficiently deliver these additional benefits.”
With the additional $11 million investment from the Bowser Administration, DOES expects to be able to clear the backlog of claims, reduce customer wait times on the phone, and get money to eligible claimants in a shorter period of time. New improvements will include:
- New Technology and tools for efficiency
- Adding a Chatbot feature on the website to allow for immediate answers
- Increasing communications
- Robocalls and text messages being used to alert and update on new benefits availability and other agency announcements
- Adding capacity to program staff and operations
- Providing comprehensive staff training to improve quality of interactions
- Call center will operate on modified operations on February 17 and 26 for half-day training on the new program requirements
“You work hard to support yourself and your family. We are committed to working with you to process the benefits you are eligible to receive,” said DOES Director Dr. Unique Morris-Hughes. “While we continue to process new claimants every day, our priority is to make DOES unemployment insurance programs easier to understand and navigate. Our goal is to continue to raise awareness about the programs and the benefits that can help you and your family bridge the economic gap.”
Many of the additional unemployment programs, as enacted by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act are now effective through the week ending March 13, 2021. The additional 11 weeks under the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) and Pandemic Unemployment Services (PEUC) programs, will begin processing throughout the month of February. The additional $300 Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) has already been implemented by DOES.
The CAA, which modifies and extends unemployment benefits under the CARES Act, was signed on December 27, 2020. The CARES Act was originally passed on March 27, 2020 to provide emergency assistance and health care response for individuals, families, and businesses impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
District workers are now eligible to receive an extension of UI benefits through the following programs:
- Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) – DOES is currently working on system modifications to extend PUA for 11 additional weeks (additional weeks are only effective through the week ending March 13, 2021). PUA covers individuals who are not eligible for traditional UI benefits. This includes self-employed individuals, independent contractors, and gig economy workers, as well as those who have exhausted their benefit eligibility under traditional UI, PEUC, and Extended Benefits (EB). PUA is effective February 2, 2020 through March 13, 2021. No new applications will be allowed after March 13, 2021. Eligible individuals, who are receiving PUA with the week ending March 13, 2021 and have not exhausted their benefits, may continue to collect any remaining benefits on their claim through the week ending April 10, 2021. System updates will be completed for impacted individuals to file their weekly certifications via DCnetworks after February 10, 2021.
- Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) –DOES is currently working on system modifications to extend PEUC for 11 additional weeks (additional weeks are only effective through the week ending March 13, 2021). No new applications will be allowed after that date. PEUC covers individuals who have recently exhausted all rights to traditional UI under state or federal law and now provides up to 24 weeks of unemployment benefits. Eligible individuals, who have not exhausted their PEUC benefits as of March 13, 2021, may continue to receive PEUC through week ending April 10, 2021. System updates will be completed for impacted individuals to file their weekly certifications via DCnetworks after February 19, 2021.
- Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) – DOES has implemented new system-wide updates for FPUC, which will provide up to 11 weeks of an additional $300 per week to supplement benefits to claimants who are eligible, through traditional UI, PEUC, EB, or PUA. The extra $300 is available from week ending January 2, 2021 through the week ending March 13, 2021.
- Mixed Earners Unemployment Compensation (MEUC) – DOES is currently working to develop an online MEUC application with document upload and approval process functionality. MEUC will provide a $100 weekly supplement to eligible individuals with annual self-employment income of at least $5,000 through March 13, 2021. To be eligible for MEUC, individuals must have received at least $5,000 of self-employment income in the most recent taxable year ending prior to the individual’s application for regular UI. Additional information about how to apply for MEUC will be provided soon. The application for MEUC will be ready February 15, 2021. MEUC payments will begin on February 19, 2021.
DOES is committed to ensuring quality experiences for our community. The agency continues to update and develop the unemployment insurance system and the claimant experience to ensure customers receive all benefits, to which they are entitled, in a timely, effective, and efficient manner. DOES understands the unprecedented time we are in and how much these benefits are needed to get into the hands of District workers and families. DOES thanks claimants for their continued patience while system modifications occur.
For more information, visit does.dc.gov.