Inslee announces unemployment funding after federal Pandemic Unemployment expires

Inslee announces unemployment funding after federal Pandemic Unemployment expires

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee announced on Sunday that the state will provide unemployment for the nearly 100,000 Washingtonians who will lose their federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) benefits following President Donald Trump’s refusal to sign a federal coronavirus relief package by the Saturday night deadline.

Trump had until midnight on Saturday to sign the relief bill, instead he signed the bill Sunday afternoon which creates a one week gap in PUA benefits.

The $54 million bill, announced by Inslee, will provide a one-time Pandemic Relief Payment to 94,555 people in Washington who have been claiming PUA. The money will be distributed by the Employment Security Department later this week, the governor’s office says.

“We are providing a bridge for some Washingtonians until the federal government finally acts. It is extremely unfortunate that the president has missed the deadline and allowed much-needed unemployment benefits to lapse for struggling workers and families,” Inslee said in a statement Sunday.

Bryan Fiehler is a classical singer and a conductor in Seattle. He does a lot of work with local community and church choirs. When the pandemic hit in March, Fiehler said he lost 75 percent of his income.

Like many other gig workers, contractors, or self-employed individuals, he counts on PUA.

It has been a lifeline and helped pay for half of his rent, Fiehler says.

“Every little bit helps,” said Fiehler.

The emergency payment of $550 per claimant, which equates to roughly two weeks of benefits for most PUA recipients, will be issued to all PUA claimants who were in active status the week ending Nov. 21.

If the federal relief package is signed, federal PUA benefits will be extended through March 14, 2021.

The PUA program provides unemployment benefits to those not eligible for regular unemployment such as independent contractors and self-employed workers.