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You can still get unemployment benefits after state payments run out

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A man in a face mask walks past the New York State Department of Labor building in Brooklyn.

The CARES Act gives people the opportunity for a 13-week extension after state unemployment benefits end. Bryan R. Smith/AFP via Getty Images

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We are now more than six months into the catastrophic wave of unemployment that kicked off with the pandemic in early spring. More than 25 million people are still claiming benefits.

The half-year milestone is significant because, after 26 weeks on the rolls, people’s regular state jobless benefits run out. The CARES Act passed in March provides a federally-funded extension of those payments. 

Mark Smith of Clackamas, Oregon, has been on unemployment since March when he was laid off from the factory where he worked as a janitor. 

“The initial 26 weeks was up; I was at $0 balance,” he said.

He just put in for a 13 week federally-funded extension called Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation, or PEUC. He had to start a new application and download a PDF — he’s not sure he did it right.

“I’m hoping, doing my fingers crossed,” Smith said.

Switching to the federal extension should be seamless. The rules for qualifying are the same, said Michele Evermore, senior policy analyst at the National Employment Law Project. But, “we’re seeing a much bigger drop in regular unemployment insurance than we’re seeing an increase in PEUC,” she said.

Some states are making people reapply for benefits, causing delays. Smith is waiting to find out if he’s gotten the extension. Until then, “I’m like trying to hold every cent,” he said.

He’s been living on about $300 a week in unemployment.

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