Kokua Line: If Trump OKs it, revived ‘plus-up’ would start fresh, not make up for gap in federal jobless aid

Kokua Line: If Trump OKs it, revived ‘plus-up’ would start fresh, not make up for gap in federal jobless aid

Question: Will the new plus-up be retroactive to when the last one expired?

Answer: No, even assuming that President Donald Trump ultimately signs the bill into law. Congress revived Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) in the economic relief package it approved Monday but did not make the so-called “plus-up” payments retroactive to when the first program expired.

If it becomes law, the revived plus-up would be $300 a week, half the value of the original, which expired in July. FPUC is known as the plus-up because it is paid on top of a claimant’s basic state or federal unemployment benefit.

To be clear, if FPUC is enacted, eligible claimants would be paid for all their eligible weeks. There are likely to be back payments due to administrative delays in dispersing the money; the program would be retroactive in that sense. But eligibility would start at the program’s revival date.

Q: Would there have been a gap in unemployment pay even if President Trump signed the bill Saturday?

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A: Yes, most likely, if you are receiving benefits from a federal program that expired at midnight Saturday, including Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) or Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC).

On Monday, Congress passed a $900 billion COVID-­19 relief bill that extended both programs, along with many other provisions of the CARES Act that have been keeping people afloat through the pandemic. The package was negotiated with the Trump Administration, via Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, but Trump raised objections after it passed and failed to sign the measure by midnight Saturday.

His ire isn’t directed at the unemployment provisions, but state labor departments that administer the programs, including in Hawaii, can’t move forward on extending PUA and PEUC until the bill is signed into law.

Even if Trump had signed the bill on Saturday, there likely would have been a gap in payments because the DLIR has to reprogram its systems to handle the extensions. Claimants would ultimately be made whole because payments would be retroactive in that scenario.

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DLIR Director Anne Perreira-Eustaquio signaled potential payment delays in a statement Wednesday, expressing relief that Congress had acted to extend the benefits and noting the bill awaited the president’s signature.

“Once the bill is signed there are processing steps that need to be taken prior to implementing the extensions. These steps include formal guidance from the U.S. DOL, funding allotments, and IT programming changes, among others,” she said.

As mentioned, if Trump had signed on Saturday, payments might have been delayed but they would have been retroactive — the gap would have been in the timing of the payment, not the amount. But that’s not the case since Trump didn’t sign the bill before PUA and PEUC expired. States can’t distribute federal unemployment payments for weeks that start before the bill is signed, labor experts said.

Q: Help! My Hawaii driver’s license expires in December, but I couldn’t get an appointment for renewal until January. Was there an extension granted for this? If not, what do I do?

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A: Yes. Honolulu County’s Department of Customer Services announced Thursday that expiration dates have been extended through Feb. 14, “bringing relief to thousands of Oahu residents who now have additional time to schedule appointments amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.”

The extension provided by Gov. David Ige’s 17th emergency proclamation applies to driver’s licenses, state identification cards, instructional permits and commercial driver’s licenses that have expired since March 16 or will expire by Jan. 31, it said.

The proclamation extends Hawaii’s COVID-19 emergency period through Feb. 14.

Although the extension applies to commercial licenses, people who hold such licenses must still meet the requirements for a valid Medical Examiner’s Certificate.

Readers who need to make an appointment to renew their license may do so at AlohaQ.org.

Write to Kokua Line at Honolulu Star-Advertiser, 7 Waterfront Plaza, Suite 210, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., Honolulu 96813; call 529-4773; fax 529-4750; or email [email protected]

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