On February 25th, the U.S. Department of Labor issued a Guidance to state unemployment insurance agencies expanding the circumstances in which workers may be eligible for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA).
The new Guidance expands eligibility to three categories of workers:
- Workers receiving unemployment benefits who had their continued regular unemployment benefits’ claims denied after they refused to work or accept an offer of work at a worksite not in compliance with coronavirus health and safety standards.
- Workers laid off, or who have had their work hours reduced as a direct result of the pandemic.
- School employees working without a contract or reasonable assurance of continued employment who face reduced paychecks and no assurance of continued pay when schools are closed due to coronavirus.
The new reasons are retroactive and will apply as if they had been included from the beginning of the PUA program. Individuals must self-certify that they are unemployed, or unable or unavailable to work because of identified coronavirus-related reasons during the applicable time period.
These new categories of eligibility will obviously create a good deal more work for the already overloaded state unemployment agencies. The DOL has indicated that it will provide state systems with funds to make necessary changes and time to update their systems to enable retroactive payment of PUA to eligible claimants. PUA is 100 percent federally funded, and administered by state agencies on behalf of the department’s Employment and Training Administration. This should be a great comfort to those of you who have been keeping up with the historic levels of fraud related to this program. (Scammers have taken $36 BILLION in fraudulent unemployment payments from American workers https://www.cnbc.com/2021/01/05/scammers-have-taken-36-billion-in-fraudulent-unemployment-payments-.html)