COVID-19 and Work: Expanded Unemployment Benefits for Employees
May 6, 2020
On March 27, 2020, Congress passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act(CARES Act) to address the economic fallout caused by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and to provide financial relief to people and small businesses impacted by the health crisis.
In part, the CARES Act temporarily enhances unemployment insurance (UI) benefits through three key federal programs, detailed below, as well as by expanding coverage for state programs:
Expansion of State Benefits
One major aspect of the CARES program is the eased availability of state unemployment benefits. As the number of unemployed individuals continues to rise, they will face fewer barriers to receiving state aid.
-Eligibility requirements have been relaxed under CARES and unemployment programs have waived various normal requirements:
Employees are not required to have worked a certain amount of time (or to have made contributions to the state unemployment fund through payroll deductions) to be eligible for benefits
Self-employed individuals, including independent contractors and business owners are now eligible for unemployment benefits
Other usual barriers and red-tape have been reduced, such as:
Employees also are no longer required to wait after a layoff or separation to seek and receive unemployment benefits; they can now apply immediately upon being out of work
Individuals can receive partial wage replacement benefits if their hours or income have been reduced
Individuals are not required to actively seek work each week if they are temporarily unemployed and expected to return to work with their employer within a few weeks
Additional Federal Benefits
A second major aspect of the CARES program is the availability of federal unemployment benefits, which supplement existing state programs to increase total available funds and to allow recipients to continue to collect assistance once they have used up the monies provided by the states.
Eligibility Requirements to Participate in the Federal Programs:
Under the CARES Act, employees can receive additional money under the federal programs if they are unemployed, partially unemployed, or unable to work because:
The Employee or a member of their household has been diagnosed with COVID-19;
The Employee is providing care to a family member diagnosed with COVID-19;
The Employee is caring for a minor unable to attend school or daycare due to COVID-19;
The Employee’s place of employment is closed or inaccessible due to COVID-19;
The Employee becomes a head of household due to a COVID-19 death; or
The Employee has to quit their job due to COVID-19 (such as if they are medically vulnerable and thus remaining at work would put them at higher risk)
Expanded Federal Benefits Under Three New Programs:
Pandemic Unemployment Compensation
Employees can receive a standard $600 payment per week, in addition to their state law allocations
Benefits are available for the period from January 27, 2020 through July 31, 2020
Benefits can be sought retroactively by individuals who were laid-off, terminated, or experienced a reduction in their business
Benefits can be claimed for up to 39 weeks
Pandemic Unemployment Assistance
Eligibility is extended to:
individuals who have been furloughed or out of work as a direct result of COVID-19
self-employed and independent contractors
workers who have already exhausted their already existing benefits
but not individuals who are able to continue receiving their normal compensation
if remotely working from home is offered
by accessing paid sick leave or other benefits
Benefits are available for the period from January 27, 2020 through December 31, 2020
Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation
Individuals who exhaust all of their state UI benefits can receive expanded continued government assistance under this federal program
Applicants must be actively engaged in searching for work
Benefits are available through December 31, 2020 for up to 13 weeks
The combination of increased state and federal unemployment insurance benefit programs will enable both more people to participate and gain much-needed income and will increase the amount of money provided to applicants to help them get by while they are without their usual earned income.
Stay tuned for new developments! There are changes and new provisions introduced on a regular basis. This is a very dynamic area of law, as these circumstances are new and evolving.
By Angela Reddock-Wright, Esq., Employment Mediator, Arbitrator & Workplace Investigator in Los Angeles
Nothing in this blog, written materials or otherwise is intended as legal advice by the Reddock Law Group, Managing Partner Angela Reddock-Wright, or any person associated with the firm. This blog is intended for educational purposes only. The Reddock Law Group does not represent clients in legal matters. We are a full-service mediation, neutral, investigations, and alternative dispute resolution firm. For legal advice, please contact a licensed attorney with experience in employment law.