The Department of Labor Just Expanded Unemployment Eligibility: Here’s Who Qualifies


The Labor Department on Thursday expanded eligibility for unemployment benefits to those facing unsafe workplaces, as well as unemployed parents who had to quit their jobs when schools and child care providers closed and were jobless. when the children returned to the classroom.

Specifically, the Department of Labor expanded the circumstances under which workers could qualify for unemployment insurance payments through the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program. The order extends eligibility to:

  • Workers who were denied unemployment benefits after they refused to work in unsafe conditions
  • School personnel and employees who have been affected by school closings through reduced pay or who do not have the guarantee of continued payment.
  • Any worker whose working hours were reduced or who lost their job as a direct result of the Covid-19 pandemic

“Today’s guide opens the door to relief for workers who have faced difficult, if not impossible choices between accepting a job in an unsafe workplace to receiving a steady source of income and protecting their health and that of their employees. loved ones, “Patricia Smith, a senior adviser to the Secretary of Labor, said in a statement Thursday.

Beyond allowing school personnel and workers who feel unsafe to claim unemployment benefits, the new guide also offers relief for those who have had to deal with school and child care closures that affect their jobs, even after they schools returned to attend in person.

“This is great news for a case we have seen a lot: parents [who] they left work when schools closed, jobs replaced them, and then they were out of work, but the school reopened, ”Elizabeth Pancotti, Employ America’s policy director, tweeted Thursday. He noted that if parents were to quit their jobs as a direct result of Covid-19, even if schools reopen, they will be eligible for unemployment benefits.

Workers can now select more than one reason for their unemployment so that they can remain eligible for benefits even if one of the reasons disappears.

The new guide addresses this “glaring problem” for parents who had to leave work because their children’s school closed due to Covid-19 and then had no job to return to when things reopened, Andrew Stettner said, Principal Investigator for the Century Foundation and leading expert on unemployment insurance.

The latest eligibility expansion is part of the PUA program, which was established under the CARES Act relief package that Congress passed about a year ago. The program specifically covers business owners, self-employed Americans, concert workers, and independent contractors who are out of work or have significantly reduced hours as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. The PUA program is 100 percent funded by the federal government, but administered by each state.

Thursday’s eligibility changes are retroactive, so workers previously denied unemployment can reapply for PUAs and get benefits from the start of their unemployment period.

The Department of Labor also requires states to offer workers the option to select more than one reason for their unemployment based on Covid-19. That way, they can remain eligible for benefits even if one of the reasons goes away.

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