The Investigators: What Mid-Southerners need to know when federal unemployment assistance ends

Updated: Jul. 1, 2020 at 9:37 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Mid-Southerners who rely on unemployment money will soon lose a large amount of their benefits near the end of the month.

Federal unemployment assistance will end July 25 in Tennessee, Mississippi and Arkansas.

“It is the most awful feeling that I’ve had ever,” said Princess Baker. Baker had been working as a Memphis tour guide when she was laid off more than three months ago in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Baker says she hasn’t been unemployed in over twenty years.

“It has been absolutely painful,” she said.

That pain is shared with thousands of Mid-Southerners.

State and federal data shows 280,593 Tennesseans, 97,069 Mississippians, and 112,189 Arkansans were collecting unemployment as of June 13.

Soon, the $600 in federal money they’re receiving each week will stop.

The money is known as Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation, or FPUC.

According to a letter sent from the U.S. Department of Labor to all state workforce agencies on April 4, FPUC must end on or before July 31.

The end date in Tennessee, Arkansas and Mississippi is July 25 because the week of unemployment ends on a Saturday.

“What will that mean for people currently receiving unemployment across the Mid-South,” asked The Investigators.

“It’s a significant impact,” said employment attorney Alan Crone.

According to Crone, $600 a week is more than some people were making prior to being laid off, furloughed or fired due to COVID-19. However, he believes the federal government will respond by replacing the benefit that’s ending with another.

“Should people count on another stimulus package being approved in Washington?” Asked the Investigators.

“I don’t think you can count on the Congress of the United States to do anything,” said Crone. “I would remain optimistic about that, talk to your congressmen and in the meantime, do your best to find another job.”

However, there are still thousands of people who haven’t yet had their unemployment claims processed.

In Tennessee, there are currently 42,030 unprocessed claims.

Princess Baker’s claim is one of them.

“I think they should extend it until they figure out how they going to let us re-evolve in society. It’s hard. It’s hard out here,” she said.

The good news for people like Baker is once the claim is processed, they’ll receive the federal money they’re owed, even if it’s past the July 25 deadline.

For those who are still eligible to receive unemployment after that date, they will continue to receive state unemployment benefits.

The additional unemployment programs outlined in the CARES Act; PUA and Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation, will continue through December 26, 2020, the last Saturday of that month.

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