Lessons Learned from the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Program during COVID-19

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the U.S. government implemented the largest expansion in eligibility to federal Unemployment Insurance (UI) benefits in history through the creation of the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program. This program expanded eligibility to self-employed workers, gig workers, independent workers and others not previously eligible for UI or who were unable to work for a variety of COVID related reasons. Once implemented, the PUA program accounted for roughly 40 percent of total claims through expiration (Figure 1) and $80 Billion (20%) of the $400 Billion spent on UI expansions in 2020 (DOL IG, 2021).