Unemployment Insurance

Workers' Rights During COVID-19

Enhanced Federal Stimulus and Unemployment Insurance Benefits


Unemployment law is primarily state-based, so individuals will need to review the unemployment provisions in their own state to determine eligibility. However, the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, signed into law on March 27, 2020, provides the following enhancements to state unemployment benefits, if the state has entered into an implementing agreement with the federal government.

The CARES Act provides certain enhanced unemployment benefits commencing retroactively to January 27, 2020, including an additional weekly $600 Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation payment on top of existing state unemployment benefits for a maximum of 39 weeks, subject to further extension rules. (Section 2104(b)(1)(A) and (B).) Further, employees who have the coronavirus can collect unemployment as well if they are not receiving paid leave benefits.

The bill mandates extension of coverage to an individual who is otherwise able to work and:

1. is not eligible for regular compensation or extended benefits under State or Federal law or pandemic emergency unemployment compensation;

2. has exhausted all rights to regular unemployment or extended benefits under State or Federal law or pandemic emergency unemployment compensation;

3. is unemployed, partially unemployed, or unable or unavailable to work because the individual has been diagnosed with COVID–19 or is experiencing symptoms of COVID–19 and seeking a medical diagnosis;

4. is caring for a household family member who has been diagnosed with COVID–19;

5. is primary caregiver for a child or other person in the household who is unable to attend school or another facility that is closed as a direct result of the COVID-19 public health emergency and this prevents work;

6. is an employee or new hire that is unable to reach the place of employment because of a COVID-19 quarantine or health provider self-quarantine;

7. has become the breadwinner or source of major support for a household because the head of the household has died from COVID–19;
8. has to quit his or her job as a direct result of COVID–19 due to closure of the place of employment; or,

9. is self-employed, is seeking part-time employment, does not have sufficient work history, or otherwise would not qualify for regular unemployment or extended benefits under State or Federal law or pandemic emergency unemployment compensation.

(Section 2102 (a)(3)(A)(ii)(aa) – (ll).)

Notwithstanding the above, an individual who has the ability to telework for pay, or an individual who is receiving paid sick leave or other paid leave benefits, remains ineligible for unemployment insurance benefits during the period covered by the paid leave. (Section 2102 (a)(3)( B).)

The CARES Act requires states to sign agreements with the federal government consistent with its provisions to secure federal assistance during the pandemic.

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