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Attorney Blog, Human Resources

STATES BEGIN TO EXPAND UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFITS IN RESPONSE TO COVID-19

Attorney Harrison Oldham

With all of the recent negative news, its nice to see that our federal government is taking steps to help ease the county’s economic strife. According to the U.S. Department of Labor Unemployment Insurance Program Letter No. 10-20, states can pay unemployment insurance benefits to workers who miss time on the job because of the spread of the new coronavirus and efforts to combat it.

Last week, the Department of Labor released guidance to states on how they can amend their laws to offer jobless benefits to workers impacted by -19, the disease also known as the coronavirus. The Labor Department oversees unemployment insurance benefits systems, but states administer applications and payments and generally determine eligibility requirements. Per the guidance, the amended laws may include extending benefits to employees who miss work because of quarantine; to those who choose not to work to avoid exposure or to care for a family member; as well as to those whose employers cease or limit operations in response to the pandemic.

“The Administration is using all available tools to decrease the risk of coronavirus in the United States and to assist workers who may be affected,” Labor Secretary Eugene Scalia said in a statement announcing the guidance. “Under the guidance issued today, states have greater assurance about the circumstances in which they are authorized to extend unemployment insurance benefits to Americans whose employment has been disrupted by coronavirus.”

A number of states have started to act in response. For example, officials in California are urging workers who see their hours reduced as a result of coronavirus prevention measures to file claims for jobless benefits under the state system.

New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu has proposed expanding the state’s unemployment insurance program to cover workers who need time off for a quarantine or sickness related to coronavirus.

Colorado, which on Wednesday said it would require employers to provide paid leave to certain workers awaiting the results of coronavirus tests, also is considering using unemployment benefits to address the situation.

In addition, on March 17, Texas Governon Greg Abbott waived the 10-day waiting period that is usually tied to unemployment benefits.

The Texas Workforce Commission’s (“TWC”) website now has a section on its website dedicated to the COVID-19 response:

‘If your employment has been affected by the coronavirus (COVID-19), apply for benefits either online at any time using Unemployment Benefits Services or by calling TWC’s Tele-Center at 800-939-6631 from 8 a.m.-6 p.m. Central Time Mondays through Fridays.

TWC may experience an increase in call volumes and hold times on our Tele-Center phone lines. You are encouraged to use our online claim portal, Unemployment Benefits Services (UBS ), to handle your claim needs quickly. UBS is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. We also encourage you to sign up for Electronic Correspondence so you can receive your TWC communications online as soon as possible.

TWC will investigate why you lost your job and mail a decision explaining whether you are eligible for unemployment benefits.

Under normal circumstances, TWC requires the following to file for unemployment:

  • Last employer’s business name and address
  • First and last dates (month, day and year) you worked for your last employer
  • Number of hours worked and pay rate if you worked this week (including Sunday)
  • Information related to your normal wage
  • Alien Registration Number (if not a U.S. citizen or national)

To qualify for unemployment benefits you must have worked for the past 12 months and have at least a minimum amount of wages required by their guidelines. After an individual applies, the TWC has said it takes approximately four weeks from the date of the application to learn if the individual will be eligible for benefits.

Hopefully these measures, in a small way, will help those in need through these difficult times.


About Harrison Oldham

Harrison grew up in Mansfield, Texas. He attended Texas A&M University for his bachelor’s degree, where he met his wonderful wife, Kelsey. After graduating magna cum laude from Texas A&M, he attended SMU Dedman School of Law, graduating with honors in 2012. Today, Harrison and his wife live in Dallas, Texas with their son, Teddy.

Since graduating from SMU Law, Harrison has worked exclusively in the field of business law. He has spent time in private practice and in-house, working with clients of every size; from single person startups to Fortune 250 companies. Today his practice focuses on serving the diverse needs of businesses and individuals throughout Texas. You can learn more about Harrison by visiting his website, at: http://lonestarbusinesslaw.com/.

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