Jefferson City, MO –– The Missouri Department of Labor and Industrial Relations’ (DOLIR’s) Division of Employment Security (DES) reported a total of 59,271 initial claims for the week ending April 18, 2020, the most recent week for which claims information is available. That is a decrease of 41.7 percent in initial claims compared to the previous week. Of the 59,271 initial claims, 47,439 reported their claims as being COVID-19 related.
There were a total of 226,394 individuals filling weekly requests for payments (continued claims status) for the week ending April 18, 2020, with a total of $48,066,834 in regular unemployment benefits being paid for the week ending April 18, 2020.
Last week, the week beginning April 19, 2020, Missouri became one of only 10 states to start processing and paying claims for the self-employed and others ineligible for regular unemployment through the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program. Under the PUA program, those individuals who qualify will be eligible for benefit payments of between $133 and $320 a week plus a weekly $600 federal supplement available under the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) program. Individuals eligible for the PUA program may provide proof of earnings to potentially increase the amount of benefits received each week.
The DES set up its FPUC program and paid more than 181,000 applicants a total of more than $300 million in FPUC benefits. The FPUC program, which began the week of March 29, 2020, provides that those eligible for at least one dollar of unemployment compensation benefits during the week will receive an additional $600 per week as a federal supplement. The last payable week for the $600 supplement will be the week ending July 25, 2020. The number of PUA claims is not yet available for this past week due to federal restrictions on the release of weekly data; however, some PUA payments were already processed to eligible recipients and included the additional $600 supplement along with retroactive payments.
“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. 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,” said DES Director Chris Slinkard.
The FPUC and the PUA programs are not regular unemployment insurance programs but are new, fully federally funded assistance programs. Both of these provisions have been enacted as part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act. For additional information about the FPUC and the PUA, visit labor.mo.gov/coronavirus.
The DES notes that child support payments, existing non-fraud over payments, and taxes, for those who have elected to have taxes withheld, reduces both the $600 payment as well as any weekly unemployment payments.
Missouri will begin rolling out the third federal program under the CARES Act by the end of this week, the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) program. This program will provide up to an additional 13 weeks of unemployment to those who have exhausted their regular unemployment benefits. DES will notify all potentially eligible individuals who have previously applied for benefits and could potentially be eligible for the PEUC program. Missouri encourages those who have previously exhausted their regular unemployment claims to check their correspondence in UInteract for additional instructions and for those who have exhausted their unemployment benefits, but still have an active benefits year, to continue to file weekly requests for payment.
The DES continues to urge people to file for all unemployment benefits at uinteract.labor.mo.gov. Claimants are reminded to take extreme care to provide accurate information. “Typos, wrong dates, incorrect answers to questions, and other data entry errors during the initial claims process cause most delays for eligible claimants. More than 90 percent of Missouri’s unemployed have been able to file claims online without assistance with our UInteract system, and we continue to implement more options to better assist claimants with their questions,” said Slinkard.
Before calling the DES, check for additional information on unemployment by visiting labor.mo.gov/coronavirus, watch how-to videos at labor.mo.gov/des/videos, check for correspondence and claim status on your account at uinteract.labor.mo.gov and ask unemployment questions of the Department’s virtual assistant at labor.mo.gov.