COVID-19 UNEMPLOYMENT GUIDANCE FOR ALL EMPLOYERS

In the wake of the COVID-19 crisis, Congress has re-written the rules and provided unemployment benefits to people that were never eligible and a strong incentive for many workers to stay home and collect in 2020. Employers will need to carefully review monthly billing statements to be sure they do not get stuck picking up the bill.

Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (“PUA”)
PUA provides up to 39 weeks of benefits to individuals who are self-employed, seeking part-time employment or otherwise would not qualify for regular unemployment compensation under state or federal law. PUA will be paid by the federal government.

Rhode Island employers should review their monthly billing statement from the Department of Labor and Training ("DLT") to ensure that no former employees – eligible for PUA – find themselves as a “chargeable” employee to the employer’s account. By way of example, if an employee worked for an employer for one quarter, was laid off and had not worked for any other employer in the past five quarters, then the employee would typically be “ineligible” to collect unemployment. However, the PUA allows “ineligible” employees to receive unemployment compensation. The federal government will pay PUA and it should not be charged to an employer’s account. Given that the State of Rhode Island had over 150,000 unemployment claims filed since March 1, 2020, there could be some charges wrongly applied to employer accounts for “ineligible” employees.

Also, the DLT only revised its unemployment application to address PUA eligible workers on April 7, 2020. Before that date, applicants filled out an unemployment application that did not accept information related to a PUA claim. For instance, the application asked for the applicant’s immediate past employer. This led to several employers receiving an Employee Separation Report for employees who had left their employment years prior to 2020 to start their own business or work as a contractor. Again, if an employer received an Employee Separation Report for an employee who left their employment longer than five quarters ago, then the employer should monitor their monthly billing sheet to ensure that the employee is not charged to their account because the employee likely qualified for PUA but was not otherwise eligible to collect unemployment.

Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (“FPUC”)
Individuals who are collecting unemployment receive an additional $600.00/week that will be paid by the federal government. (For workers that earn less than $20 per hour it may make more sense to stay home).

Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (“PEUC”)
Employees may receive an additional 13 weeks of benefits after they exhaust the unemployment available to them under state law. States must also be flexible in determining whether an individual is “unable to search for work” or “available to work” because of the Covid-19 pandemic. This extends to December 31, 2020.

Pannone Lopes Devereaux & O’Gara LLC employment attorneys will continue to update employers about COVID-19 related issues that impact their organizations and workforce. If you have questions, please contact PLDO Partner Matthew C. Reeber at 401-824-5105 or mreeber@pldolaw.com or PLDO Principal William E. O’Gara at 401-824-5117 or wogara@pldolaw.com. For more information and resource materials about the COVID-19 pandemic, visit PLDO COVID-19 Resources and sign up to receive our e-newsletters, alerts and advisories here.


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Employment Law Overview

Pannone Lopes Devereaux & O’Gara LLC
Rhode Island   |  Florida  |  Massachusetts

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