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Employee, Unemployment Insurance and COVID-19

The waiting week is a one-week delay between the date a claim is filed and the date of the first payment issued. It has been built into the Job Service North Dakota mainframe since before online filing became commonplace. It allows Job Service to verify statements made on claims and is a tool in the fight against insurance fraud. Governor Burgum waived the waiting week on April 1, 2020 in an executive order.

Because of the many programming changes associated with new programs introduced in the CARES Act, Job Service North Dakota recognizes the critical need to get each of these programs in place. We had to prioritize the order of programming all while weighing the risk of complete system failure, which could have resulted in the inability to provide any individual a benefit payments at all. 

There are several reasons your claim could be denied, but it is important to remember that with the new federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) and Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC), almost all individuals will be eligible for benefits if they are unemployed due to the pandemic.  The federal government considers PUA and PEUC to be programs of last resort.  This means that they are only available to individuals who are not eligible for regular state unemployment insurance, or those who have been denied regular state unemployment insurance.

If you receive a Monetary Determination noting that you are not eligible for benefits, you should file a claim for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance

If you have received all of the benefits available to you on a claim you filed within the last year, you should file a claim for Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation

If you are unemployed for a reason not related to the pandemic, you will need to follow normal procedures in place for state unemployment insurance benefits (click “File a Regular UI Claim”). 

With the passage of the CARES Act those who have current Benefit Year Ends and have exhausted their benefits would most likely be eligible to receive the PEUC extension of 13 additional weeks of regular UI. Other regular claims would be potentially eligible for PEUC at the point they exhaust. 

The most common reasons for these denials will be if you quit a job or were terminated by your employer.  You will be notified of your eligibility with a Non-Monetary Determination.  This determination will provide you with information and actions you should take if you do not agree with the determination. 

  • Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA), employees may refuse work if they “reasonably believe they are in imminent danger.” That fear typically includes the threat of death or serious physical harm. Generalized fear about the virus, that’s not based on fact, would not likely be sufficient to refuse to work. However, if the workplace currently has a number of confirmed cases of COVID-19, their fears may be justified.

  • For workers who are at higher risk for negative outcomes if they contract COVID-19, such as those with underlying medical conditions or workers who are immunocompromised, even generalized fears may be legitimate. Businesses should work with these staff members to alter the work environment as much as possible to mitigate risk, if they can.

Included in the CARES Act is Pandemic Unemployment Assistance which is a program for those who do not qualify for regular unemployment benefits.  You can apply at this link for PUA benefits. Please know that the applications for these benefits will not be processed until the federal government provides guidance to the states on implementing this new program.

Yes, if you are quarantined and physically able to work but cannot work from the quarantine location do to other reasons, you would be eligible to receive benefits based upon recent federal guidance relating strictly to COVID-19.

Yes, if you cannot work due to contracting COVID-19 but will be returning to your employer, you would be eligible to receive benefits based upon recent federal guidance relating strictly to COVID-19.

If your employer shuts down or lays you off due to lack of work caused by the impact of COVID-19 on the business, you will generally be eligible for Unemployment Insurance benefits.

Yes. Work search requirements were suspended temporarily in April 2020 but are now back in place.

Lost Wages Assistance (LWA) Program

Although the federally defined program duration is August 1, 2020 through December 26, 2020, FEMA funding for the program is limited to $44 billion nationwide.  Federal estimates are that funding will be available for three weeks of benefit payments within each state.  As a result, each state has been directed to apply for only three weeks of benefit payments so that each participating state will be able to provide three weeks of benefits to their eligible UI claimants. 

The weeks being paid are:  July 26 through August 1; August 2 through August 8; and August 9 through August 15.  If funds remain nationwide after August 15, states will be able to request additional funds to continue payments on a weekly basis until the $44 billion nationwide allocation is exhausted.

No.  FEMA is not treating this as a first come first served program. They have designed the application process to ensure that each state has equal access to the funding based upon UI claimant numbers in each state.

The technology changes necessary to meet the new eligibility and program requirements are expected to be completed by mid-September and at that time payments will be made to eligible claimants.  Any unforeseen complications or federal program changes could extend that time frame.

Yes. 

Due to the limited budget of the LWA program and the direction provided by FEMA, the weeks that will be paid are the weeks of: July 26 through August 1; August 2 through August 8; and August 9 through August 15.  

Current programming design will result in eligible UI claimants receiving a lump sum payment.

The LWA program has a limited federal budget.  We anticipate the funds to cover three weeks.

The Lost Wage Assistance (LWA) program was enacted via a Presidential Executive Order on August 8th.  The program provides for a $300 per week additional federal benefit to eligible Unemployment Insurance (UI) claimants.

Although the LWA program is similar to the FPUC program, there are distinct differences.  The FPUC program was overseen by the United States Department of Labor (USDOL) and operated under the rules defined by the USDOL. 

The LWA program is not a Statutory program initiated by Congress.  It was enacted through a Presidential Executive Order.  As a result, the program is overseen by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).  With this change in federal agency oversight, there are different eligibility requirements. 

The FPUC program provided a $600 additional federal benefit to all UI claimants who were eligible to receive at least $1 in benefit payments per week.  The LWA program has additional eligibility requirements and provides a $300 additional federal benefit to UI claimants.

Eligible individuals are those claimants who:

  • Have received or will receive an unemployment insurance benefit for weeks between July 26, 2020 and August 15, 2020
  • Have a weekly benefit amount (WBA) of at least $100
  • Were unemployed, or partially unemployed, as a direct result of the COVID-19 pandemic

No, in fact individuals are encouraged not to contact Job Service with LWA questions as it will tie up phone lines for individuals with other questions.  Claimants who are eligible to receive the additional LWA benefit will receive the payment automatically when FEMA has approved North Dakota’s application and the necessary computer programming has been completed to make the payments. 

It is projected that payments will be made in mid-September.

Employer

Yes. Governor Burgum signed an Executive Order on Friday, March 20th to assist business owners in the receipt of Unemployment Insurance by temporarily eliminating income reduction requirements for business owners.

No. Governor Burgum signed an Executive Order on Friday, March 20th directing that individual base period employers accounts for rated employers will be relieved of charges (I.e. No Charged) on claims filed as a direct or indirect result of COVID-19.  Employers who have chosen reimbursement as their method of financing are not eligible for non-charging / pool charging of benefits at this time

Yes, generally your employees will be eligible for benefits, if they cannot report for work because they no longer have childcare available to them. 

Unemployment Insurance and COVID-19

  • Positive result for, or other diagnosis with, COVID-19;
  • Symptoms of infection with COVID-19, e.g., fever of or over 100.4°F, cough, shortness of breath, sore throat;
  • “Close contact” (as defined by the Centers for Disease Control) with any person who has tested positive for, or has otherwise been diagnosed with, COVID-19 infection within the preceding 14 days;
  • Whether the employee has been asked to self-quarantine by a health official within the preceding 14 days;
  • Whether the employee has traveled to, or stopped over in, a country for which the CDC has issued a Level 3 travel health notice

After re-opening, the same unemployment insurance programs will remain available.  As is the case currently, individuals unemployed due to the pandemic will potentially remain eligible for unemployment insurance benefits.  The primary impact of reopening will be that if suitable work is available because an individual’s employer has reopened, but the individual chooses to not return to employment, they may be found ineligible for benefits. 

Eligibility for future benefit payments is done on a case-by-case basis and could vary by situation.  Reopening, or the expiration of existing Executive Orders relating specifically to business operations, will not affect the Governor’s Executive Orders relating to items such as the temporary suspension of the unemployment insurance work search requirement.  These Orders will remain in force until the Governor specifically rescinds them. There is not a sunset or expiration date on these particular orders.

You should not apply for PEUC (the 13-week extension of regular UI benefits) until your last regular UI benefit has been processed. 

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