CARES Act Unemployment Insurance Programs and GAO’s Study

About GAO

The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) is an independent, non-partisan federal agency. GAO examines how taxpayer dollars are spent, and provides Congress and federal agencies with objective, fact-based information to help the government work more efficiently.  For more information, please see our website at

CARES Act Unemployment Insurance Programs and GAO’s Study

The need for unemployment insurance (UI) benefits has rarely been greater than during the COVID-19 pandemic. The UI program is a federal-state partnership that provides temporary financial assistance to eligible workers who become unemployed through no fault of their own and helps stabilize the economy. The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, signed in March 2020, created three new, federally funded temporary programs that expanded UI benefit eligibility and enhanced benefits, which have subsequently been extended:

1. Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA), allowing UI benefits for those not usually covered by UI benefits, such as the self-employed and gig economy workers who were fully or partially unemployed or unable to work due to COVID-19;

2. Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC), supplementing regular weekly UI benefits, as well as CARES Act benefits, with an additional $600 benefit through July 2020 and an additional $300 benefit for weeks beginning after December 26, 2020; and

3. Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC), allowing additional weeks of UI benefits for those who have depleted their regular UI benefits.

GAO is conducting this study for Congress.  We are examining the challenges that states have faced in implementing the CARES Act UI programs, the oversight provided by the U.S. Department of Labor, and the effects of expanded UI benefits for claimants and the economy. 

What GAO Will be Asking About
If you participate in one of the discussion groups, GAO will be asking about topics including:

1. Your experiences with the state agency in applying for and receiving benefits;

2. Your experiences regarding the customer service provided by the state agency;

3. How your UI benefits compared to your earnings before being laid off, and whether they influenced your decision to return to work;

4. How you used your UI benefits (e.g., for food, housing, medical and other expenses);

5. What you think Congress should know about your experience with the UI program.

How the Information You Share Will Be Used

Your participation in the discussion groups will in no way affect your eligibility for or receipt of current or future unemployment insurance benefits. Once we complete our review, we will issue a public report to Congress that will include an analysis of the information shared by discussion group participants. We may summarize views that were expressed in the groups or provide examples of experiences, but these will not be attributed to you directly. While individual comments may be included in the report, we will not attribute them by name.