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Expanded unemployment benefits can offset COVID-19 losses

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LAKE COUNTY – The COVID-19 pandemic has stopped paychecks for many of those whose jobs put them at risk for contracting or spreading the virus. 

According to the federal Labor Department, 36.5 million people across the country filed for unemployment benefits between mid-March and mid-May. Special pandemic unemployment assistance can help those who have experienced losses of income due to the pandemic stay afloat. 

The CARES Act, signed into federal law on March 27, provided several different avenues for those who have become unemployed due to the pandemic to receive financial support. Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation allows those unemployed, at this time, to be paid an additional 13 weeks of unemployment benefits. 

This also applies to those who exhausted their unemployment benefits after July 1, 2019, and are still unemployed. People in that position should file for unemployment again to see if they are eligible for an additional 13 weeks of benefits. 

Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, also supported by the CARES Act, provides unemployment benefits for those who do not qualify for traditional unemployment benefits. Gig workers, those who are self-employed, may qualify for benefits under PUA. Those seeking this type of benefit should apply at 

Pandemic Unemployment Compensation is the final expansion of unemployment under the CARES Act. PUC provides an additional $600 per week to select people who qualify for unemployment benefits. 

Erin Krantz, manager of the Polson Job Service, said she encourages all those whose employment situations have been impacted by COVID-19 to apply for benefits. Those who have lost their jobs or had hours at work reduced might be eligible for benefits, and the best way to find out is to apply.

Krantz said many people who have applied are wondering why they haven’t received benefits yet. Because so many people are applying for benefits at the same time, it is taking a while for staff to work through the claims. “They are diligently working through claims in the order in which they were filed,” she said. 

She encourages people to be patient. Each claim is different and takes a different amount of time to complete. She recommends that people continue to file for unemployment each week, even if they haven’t received payment. 

She also said it’s important for everyone dealing with the unemployment system to check their mail, which is where they will receive correspondence about the status of their claims. Krantz also urges those waiting to hear from unemployment to answer their phones, even if the call is from an unknown number. 

Some people have questions about how their unemployment benefits will work as the state gradually opens. The DLI has posted answers to frequently asked questions for both employees and business owners on their website at For more information on pandemic unemployment assistance, visit the Montana Departments of Labor and Industry website at



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