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Missouri rolls out new federal unemployment programs


JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Missouri is now one of 10 states processing claims for those ineligible for regular unemployment benefits in the wake of COVID-19 through the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Program (PUA).

The PUA, which assists those who are self-employed or ineligible for typical benefits, grants benefit payments between $133 and $320 a week, in addition to $600 a week via the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) program. These individuals provide proof of earnings for a potential increase in benefits. 

The FPUC program, which began the week of March 29, has paid more than 181,000 applicants more than $300 million in benefits so far. The program allows a $600 federal supplement in addition to what anyone who is eligible for unemployment benefits is already receiving. This federal stimulus program will be active until July 25. 

“The DES received its first guidance on April 4 from the federal government on implementation of provisions under the CARES Act, and in less than three weeks has set up and processed payments for hundreds of thousands of Missourians,” Missouri Department of Employment Security (DES) Director Chris Slinkard said in a statement. “These programs were implemented along with a new chatbot and other automated phone features, all while transitioning DES staff to remote working to protect their health and safety so that they could continue to serve the citizens of Missouri.”

An additional unemployment system, the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) program, is set to begin by the end of this week. The PEUC program will provide at maximum an additional 13 weeks of unemployment benefits to individuals who have exhausted their normal benefits. 

All three of these programs fall under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act rather than regular unemployment programs. They are federally-funded initiatives set to combat high unemployment claims due to closures and furloughs in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. 

According to DES, the week of April 18 saw 59,271 total initial unemployment claims. This is down by 41.7 percent compared to numbers filed the week before. Of those claims, 47,439 were reported to be COVID-19 related. Though the number of initial claims is decreasing substantially, DES reported that a total of 226,394 individuals filed requests in the same week for continued weekly payments, amounting to over $48 million in benefits paid. 

Unemployment numbers have been unusually high since March 21, which saw initial unemployment claims increase ten-fold. Since then, weekly numbers had hovered over 90,000 initial claims. 

Gov. Mike Parson has announced plans to gradually reopen the state beginning next week, which will likely see a further decrease in claims and payments in the weeks to come. 

More than 7,100 Missourians have tested positive for coronavirus so far, with nearly 300 deaths.

EDITOR’S NOTE: For up-to-date information on coronavirus, check with the CDC and DHSS.