COVID-19: State Unemployment Guidance and Actions
During the unprecedented challenges that the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has imposed on workers and employers, states have been announcing changes to unemployment insurance (UI) benefits.
Here are some of the actions:
Alabama. The Alabama Department of Labor (ADOL) has announced that it is offering temporary relief to employers for unemployment insurance (UI) benefit claims related to COVID-19. All charges will be waived against those employers who file partial unemployment compensation claims on behalf of their employees so that experience ratings won’t be impacted. The waiver will continue until further notice.
Employers will need to answer “Yes” when asked if the claim is COVID-19 related when they file partial unemployment claims beginning on March 23. Any claims filed from March 16 through March 20 will be addressed on a one-by-one basis. If an employer is unable to file partial claims for their employees, the employer should contact the ADOL that they waive their right to respond to any BEN 241 (Request for Separation Information. The BEN 241 will still be mailed, however, employers won’t need to respond if they notify ADOL in writing that they waive this right. Waivers may be emailed to Ben241waiver@labor.alabama.gov or by faxing (334) 309-9098. The statements should be on company letterhead and should include the state unemployment insurance account number.
Arizona. Governor Doug Ducey issued Executive Order 2020-11, retroactively effective March 11, 2020, expanding UI benefits during the COVID-19 pandemic. Workers will be eligible for UI benefits if:
- The employer has ceased operation either permanently or temporarily;
- The worker is under quarantine and doesn’t have available paid leave even if the worker is expected to return to work after the quarantine;
- The worker must leave due to risk of exposure or to care for a family member with COVID-19; or
- Any reason the Arizona Department of Economic Security determines is consistent with guidance provided by the U.S. Department of Labor. The one-week waiting period and work search requirements have been waived. An employer’s experience rating won’t be adjusted for claims related to COVID-19. The order will remain in effect until further notice.
Arkansas. The Arkansas Division of Workforce Services (DWS) notes in its FAQs on its website that whether an employer will be charged for UI claims related to COVID-19 will depend on the circumstances.
The DWS will examine the reason for separation and, if appropriate, non-charge benefits within federal and state guidelines. The DWS states that generally benefits paid as a result of a layoff, regardless of the reason, are charged to the employer’s account.
California. On March 17, Governor Gavin Newsome issued an executive order suspending the advance notice provision of the California Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act (WARN) due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) epidemic, beginning March 4. The state’s WARN act requires employers with 75 or more employees to provide 60 days’ written notice of a mass layoff, relocation, or termination affecting 50 or more employees. Under the order, businesses must still provide written notices to employees , but aren’t subject to the 60-day advanced notice requirements.
The notice must be provided with as much notice as practicable and must contain:
A brief statement for the basis of reducing the notification period indicating that the termination is COVID-19 related due to “business circumstances that were not reasonably foreseeable”, and
The statement “If you have lost your job or have been laid off temporarily, you may be eligible for Unemployment Insurance (UI).
More information on UI and other resources available for workers is available at: https://www.labor.ca.gov/coronavirus2019/
Colorado. The Colorado Department of Labor and Employment has put emergency rules in place to waive waiting week, job search, and benefit charging requirements during the COVID-19 emergency. The rules provide that a contributing employer’s account won’t be charged directly for any COVID-19 related UI benefit claims and therefore such claims will not impact the employer’s rate. The emergency rules state that quarterly unemployment contribution payments and reports will be considered timely if:
- A COVID-19 infection at the employer’s workplace resulted in ceasing or reducing operations; or
- The employer or an immediate family member has been requested to quarantine by a medical professional, local health office, or the Secretary of Health.
Connecticut. The Connecticut Department of Labor (CTDOL) clarified that employers will be required to report new and rehired employees after the Governor’s current COVID-19 related restrictions have been lifted. Rehired workers are workers that have been separated from the employer for more than 60 consecutive days. New hires must be reported to the CTDOL within 20 days of hire.
The CTDOL also clarifies in its FAQs that there’s no extension currently in place for the first fiscal quarter payments. That payment is due April 30, 2020. Employers that have missed a deadline for filing an unemployment appeal due to COVID-19 related reasons may do so with “good cause,” which would include COVID-19 related reasons.
Employers are advised if the deadline has been missed, they should file as soon as possible and explain why the appeal was late. Appeals may be filed online.
Delaware. The Delaware Division of Unemployment Insurance (DUI) has released FAQs regarding the COVID-19 impact on unemployment.
The DUI notes that Delaware no longer has a waiting week. The FAQs further note that contributory employers may see an increase in their tax rate due to COVID-19 unemployment claims. Reimbursing employers are charged dollar-for-dollar for benefits paid which could result in higher than expected unemployment costs. Employers can apply for a rehire credit. The DUI requests that employers register for SIDES to report electronically at oes.delwareworks.com.
Florida. For the latest updates visit http://floridajobs.org/
Georgia. A recent executive order from Governor Brian Kemp includes temporary actions to provide economic relief to those unemployed through no fault of their own during the COVID-19 emergency. As such, the following is temporarily suspended:
- The $30 to $50 deductible earnings threshold for unemployment claims; and
- The maximum unemployment benefits payable in a benefit year requirement (the lesser of 1/4 of base period wages or 14 to 20 times the weekly benefit amount).
Idaho. A proclamation from Governor Brad Little includes the following unemployment insurance-related provisions:
- Employers that pay quarterly unemployment tax won’t be charged when employees are laid off due to COVID-19;
- The one-week waiting period for benefits is waived for otherwise eligible claimants;
- An additional 14 days is provided to appeal benefit claims decisions (for both employers and claimants);
- It is now easier for claimants to be considered job-attached if the layoff is due to COVID-19 (the employer must provide reasonable assurance of a return to work and the claimant must available/suitable for work); and
- The available for work criteria is considered to be met if the claimant is isolated and unavailable to work at the request of a medical professional, his or her employer or local health district and the claimant will be returning to work.
Indiana. A recent executive order from Governor Eric Holcomb temporarily waives the one-week waiting period (retroactive to March 8, 2020) for claimants to receive unemployment benefits as a result of the COVID-19 emergency. To read the executive order: https://www.in.gov/gov/files/EO_20-12_Further_Directives_Helping_Hoosiers.pdf
The Indiana Department of Workforce Development has issued FAQs for employers. They announce relief for employers that unable to file their 1st quarter 2020 state unemployment insurance contribution and wage report and make the corresponding payments. To access the FAQs: https://www.in.gov/dwd/files/Indiana_Unemployment_FAQ_Employers.pdf
Iowa. Governor Kim Reynolds announced that the deadline for the first quarter unemployment tax payments that are due April 30 may be extended to July 31. Payments for both the first and second quarters are due July 31. Eligible employers include those employers with 50 or fewer employees and must be in good standing with no delinquencies in quarterly payments.
Eligible employers who elect to take the extension must contact the Unemployment Insurance Tax Division by calling (888) 848-7442 or by sending an email to Q1tax@iwd.iowa.gov by Friday, April 24 at 4:30 pm. All employers must file the Quarterly Employers Contribution and Payroll Report electronically by 4:30 on April 24 to avoid a late report filing penalty.
Kansas. A new law (L. 2020, S27) increases the number of weeks a worker can claim unemployment benefits from 16 weeks to 26 weeks for unemployment claims filed on or after January 1, 2020. Claimants may receive compensation for the one-week waiting period after completing three consecutive weeks of unemployment. These provisions would not apply to initial claims effective on and after April 1, 2021. Additionally, the Kansas Department of Labor has posted resources regarding COVID-19 and unemployment benefits on its website. To access the resources: https://www.dol.ks.gov/covid19response
The one week waiting period for those seeking unemployment benefits as a result of COVID-19 is suspended, as is the requirement that those receiving benefits be actively seeking employment.
Kentucky. Governor Andy Beshear announced changes in mass layoff parameters. Any employer with at least 50 employees, who is laying off at least 15 employees, is encouraged to file a claim on behalf of their employees through the E-Claims process. Employers who need additional information regarding the E-Claims process can contact UIeclaims@ky.gov.
The Kentucky Career Center, Division of Unemployment Services has updated its website with a set of frequently asked questions (FAQs) that can be accessed here: https://kcc.ky.gov/career/Pages/What%20You%20Need%20To%20Know.aspx
The questions explain that the one-week waiting period for claims related to COVID-19 is waived. The work search requirement is waived if the worker has the reasonable expectation that they will return to work at a future date. The FAQs state that unemployment benefits are not currently available to self-employed individuals or contractors, however, the Governor is actively working on a solution and will be announcing information soon.
Michigan. Governor Gretchen Whitmer issued Executive Order 2020-24, retroactively effective March 16, 2020, which clarifies and expands UI benefit eligibility and cost-sharing with employers. The Order rescinds an earlier Executive Order (2020-10). A worker may be eligible for UI benefits if the worker is under quarantine or isolation due to being immunocompromised, displaying symptoms of COVID-19, being in contact in the last 14 days with someone with COVID-19, to care for someone with COVID-19, or to care for a family member due to a government direct (such as a school closure). Claimants may receive up to 26 weeks of benefits.
The Michigan Unemployment Insurance Agency is authorized to approve an employer’s participation in the shared-work plan regardless if certain requirements have been met. Employer accounts won’t be charged for COVID-19 related claims if an employee has been laid or placed on a leave of absence due to COVID-19. However, this won’t apply to employers who have misclassified workers. The Order, which expires on April 22, temporarily suspends the work search requirements.
Minnesota. A new law (L. 2019, H4531), effective immediately, suspends the one-week waiting period for individuals affected by the COVID-19 applying for unemployment benefits, as well as the five-week business owner benefit limitation. It further amends the definition of “suitable employment” for those receiving unemployment benefits to provide that employment isn’t suitable if:
- The employment puts the health and safety of the applicant at risk due to potential exposure of the applicant to COVID-19; or
- The employment puts the health and safety of other workers and the general public at risk due to potential exposure of the other workers and the general public to COVID-19.
New Jersey. The New Jersey Division of Unemployment Benefits updated its website to include important information about claiming benefits due to COVID-19. You can access the information here: https://myunemployment.nj.gov/labor/myunemployment/covidinstructions.shtml
The webpage contains specific information for those applying for benefits, and notes that if a claimant is waiting to be recalled to his or her present job, or delaying a job search until this crisis ends or subsides, he or she may answer “yes” to the question asking if the applicant is actively seeking work. A recipient may also respond “no” to the question regarding “did you refuse any work?” if any employment offer was turned down due to concerns related to COVID-19. The one-week waiting period for those applying for benefits has also been suspended.
New York. As part of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s executive order to help relieve the economic impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, New York state has waived the seven-day waiting period for workers affected by the emergency (for example, through closures or quarantines) to claim unemployment benefits.
For those filing new claims, the day to file is based on the individual’s last name as follows: letters A through F on Monday, letters G through N on Tuesday and letters O through Z on Wednesday. If the individual’s filing day is missed, file on Thursday or Friday The New York Department of Labor has a step-by-step guide for claimants filing online. To access the guide: https://labor.ny.gov/ui/how_to_file_claim.shtm.
North Dakota. Governor Doug Burgum issued Executive Order 2020-08, effective March 13, 2020, that expands UI benefits for workers and cost-sharing with employers impacted by the COVID-19 emergency. UI benefits claimed due to a COVID-19 related reason will not be charged against the account of the employer. The register for work and work search requirements have been waived. Requirements under North Dakota law are suspended to the extent income reduction for business owners is required when calculating monetary eligibility for unemployment benefits related to COVID-19. The order will remain in effect until rescinded.
Oklahoma. The Oklahoma Employment Security Commission (OESC) updated its FAQs and note that the work search requirements have been temporarily waived during the COVID-19 emergency. You can access the FAQs here: https://www.ok.gov/oesc/Businesses/Employer_FAQs_about_Unemployment_Insurance_and_COVID-19.html
The FAQs further note that recently passed legislation provides that contributing employers won’t be charged for COVID-19 related unemployment claims until the end of 2020. However, the OESC states that employers are likely to see a rate increase in the annual rate calculations for 2021 as a result of these claims. Reimbursing charges to reimbursing employers shall not be waived and must be paid timely. Employers who aren’t able to reach the OESC to respond to a OES-617 (Notice of Application for Unemployment Benefits) may fax a response to (405) 962-7524 or mail a reply to: P.O. Box 52006, Oklahoma City, OK, 73152-2006. While workers can’t file for partial unemployment, the OESC advises that employers who have experienced a work hours reduction to less than full-time can file a claim. All earnings over $100 would be deducted from the weekly benefit amount. If the employee earns more than their weekly benefit amount plus $100, the employee wouldn’t be eligible for benefits.
Texas. The Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) has updated its website with a COVID-10 Resource webpage for employers. To access the page: https://www.twc.texas.gov/news/covid-19-resources-employers
The webpage notes that due to the COVID-19 crisis, the due date for the first quarter UI tax reports and payments is extended to May 15, 2020. Filing can begin after April 15, 2020. The webpage also features a link to FAQs for employers. The FAQs note that if an employer must cease operations due to a closure order, the employer is permitted to ask for chargeback protection on unemployment benefits paid as a result. A copy of the shutdown order should be included with responses to unemployment claims and the employer should state the closure was mandated by a local or state order. However, if the reason for the work separation was merely a cautionary period of time off to minimize potential exposure of others to someone who might be infected, but might not be, chargeback protection would most likely not be extended to the employer. The one-week waiting period for claimants to receive UI benefits has been waived.
The TWC administers the Shared Work Program, which may help employers avoid laying off employees. Shared work allows employers to supplement employee wages lost because of reduced work hours with partial unemployment benefits. Under the program, employers must reduce employee normal weekly work hours by at least 10% but not more than 40%.
Utah. The Utah Workforce Services (UWS) has released FAQs regarding the federal CARES Act and unemployment. To access the FAQs: https://jobs.utah.gov/covid19/caresuifaq.pdf
The FAQs advise that claimants that have applied for, or are currently receiving unemployment insurance (UI) benefits, aren’t required to apply again to access benefits under the CARES Act. The UWS notes that it is awaiting guidance from the U.S. Department of Labor for the implementation of these benefits. Once program guidelines have been provided, the additional $600 provided under the CARES Act will be effective for weeks beginning March 29. No guidance is available on pandemic unemployment assistance at this time. This benefit is available only to individuals who are ineligible for traditional and extended unemployment. The FAQs provide the information that would be required to apply for pandemic unemployment assistance.
Vermont. The Vermont Department of Labor announced that due to heavy call volume, it is temporarily suspending the opening or reopening of unemployment claims via the Mass Claims spreadsheet. Employers should continue to report a layoff on the spreadsheet. To file a claim, an employer or the workers should following the described here: https://labor.vermont.gov/unemployment-insurance/ui-claimants/establishing-unemployment-claim. Or call the Initial Claim line at: (877) 214-3300 or (888) 807-7072. The Vermont Department of Labor won’t be enforcing requirements under the WARN Act. However, employers are encouraged to reach out to the Vermont Department of Labor and the Vermont Agency of Commerce and Community Development for assistance. Employers may contact Cindy Robillard, Business Services Manager at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions.
Virginia. The Virginia Department of Labor and Industry (DOLI) has issued FAQs regarding Governor Ralph Northam’s Executive Order No. 53 restricting nonessential businesses from operating. They can be accessed here: https://www.doli.virginia.gov/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/Frequently-Asked-Questions-Regarding-EO-53.pdf
The DOLI states that employers who are required to slow or cease operations won’t be financially penalized for an increase in workers requesting unemployment benefits. The FAQs further note that workers are eligible to collect UI benefits if a workplace is temporarily closed or work hours are reduced.
West Virginia. Governor Jim Justice issued an executive order that expands UI benefits to workers due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) public health emergency. From March 16 through the duration of the state of emergency, the one-week waiting period, work search, able to work and available to work, and actively seeking work requirement are waived.
Contact Your Tax or Payroll Advisor
Be aware that state guidance is being released daily and rules are being modified. Contact your tax or payroll advisor for more information in your situation.