One-day difference in calendar will cost millions of unemployed $600 each
Posted July 10, 2020 4:36 p.m. EDT
Updated July 10, 2020 9:26 p.m. EDT
Raleigh, N.C. — The extra $600 in people's unemployment checks will run out a week earlier than people expect because July ends on a Friday, not a Saturday.
Congress approved the extra money earlier this year, saying it would be added to checks through the end of July. But the way lawmakers wrote the law spoke to "benefit weeks."
Because the benefit week in North Carolina and in most other states ends on a Saturday, and because July 31 is a Friday, they'll run out a week early.
That's the week ending Saturday, July 25, according to the state Division of Employment Security.
Those on unemployment will continue to get checks from the state – but without the extra $600 from the federal government. Without that extra money, which Congress may eventually extend, people in North Carolina get about half their weekly salary, with a cap of $350 a week.
"Every state is affected," DES spokeswoman Kerry McComber said in an email. "All states except New York use a Sunday through Saturday week for unemployment benefits."
U.S. Department of Labor guidance on the issue leaves no doubt how the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation works.
“FPUC is not payable for any week of unemployment ending after July 31, 2020," it states. "Accordingly, in states where the week of unemployment ends on a Saturday, the last week that FPUC may be paid is the week ending July 25, 2020."
The federal CARES Act also extended unemployment benefit duration, meaning the lower state payments will continue past the normal 12-week cap in North Carolina. This 13-week extension is called Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation.
Once that runs out , extended benefits kick in. That is a regular federal program unrelated to the pandemic that extends state unemployment benefits when jobless rates are high.
"As a claimant exhausts each of these types of benefits, they are prompted to apply for the next so we can determine their ongoing eligibility," McComber said. "Typically, there is not a gap between receiving regular state unemployment and the extensions."
The state also adjusts the number of weeks that it pays unemployment benefits based on the unemployment rate. North Carolina is at the minimum of 12 weeks now because the economy was strong before the pandemic. The maximum in a bad economy is 20 weeks.
The state's recalculation happened July 1, but it was based on the unemployment rate from January, February and March – right before the economy cratered and more than 1 million people filed for unemployment in North Carolina.
The next recalculation, based on unemployment rates in July, August and September, comes Jan. 1.