Unemployment Benefits in the Stimulus Bill

Unemployment benefits for impacted workers have now been addressed in both the Families First Coronavirus Response Act and the Coronavirus Aid Relief and Economic Security Act.

The exact meaning and scope of the Act’s unemployment provisions are uncertain and such issues may be resolved only over time by administrative regulation and guidance as well as civil litigation and judicial decision.

Who is eligible for unemployment benefits?

The CARES Act extends unemployment insurance to workers who usually aren’t eligible for such benefits at the state level—so long as their unemployment is connected to the coronavirus outbreak. Those who will now be eligible include part-time employees, freelancers, independent contractors, gig workers, and the self-employed.

How much are the unemployment benefits worth?

Under the CARES Act, the federal government will provide $600 a week to individuals who are eligible for unemployment insurance. The federal assistance will complement existing state unemployment benefits, which typically cover a percentage of an unemployed individual’s previous salary.

How long do these unemployment benefits last?

The federal government’s $600 weekly payout to unemployed workers will last for a period of up to four months through July 31. Additionally, the CARES Act will extend state-level unemployment insurance by an additional 13 weeks. For instance, whereas most state unemployment benefits last 26 weeks, the bill extends benefits in those states to 39 weeks. The extended benefits will last through Dec. 31, 2020.

When will the unemployment benefits take effect?

The bill incentivizes states to pay out unemployment benefits as early as possible, by having the federal government cover the first week of benefits for states that pay recipients as soon as they become eligible (instead of waiting the customary one-week period before awarding unemployment insurance).

What if the job I lost because of the coronavirus is a recently started one?

Some good news. For those who lost jobs as a result of the coronavirus pandemic and wouldn’t usually qualify for unemployment benefits owing to insufficient work history, the CARES Act effectively waives such work history requirements and allows those workers to receive unemployment benefits.

Florida Unemployment

If you live in Florida and have lost your job either temporarily or permanently due to the coronavirus pandemic, visit the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity’s website to get more information about filing for reemployment assistance. You can file your Reemployment Assistance Claim through CONNECT, Florida’s online Reemployment Assistance System. Also, visit their Frequently Asked Questions for information about documents you may need to file your claim, and other information.  They are currently experiencing higher than average traffic to their website and phone lines, so they are asking for your patience.

Alabama Unemployment

If you live in Alabama and have lost your job either temporarily or permanently due to the coronavirus pandemic, visit the Alabama Department of Labor’s website to get more information about filing a claim for unemployment. You can file a claim directly on their website.

For Employers: Short-Term Compensation/Temporary Layoff

Like the partial benefit provisions of state unemployment laws, short-time compensation or shared work programs allow an individual who is employed for a portion of the week to collect unemployment benefits on top of his or her regular pay. The purpose of the plans is to encourage an employer to avoid layoffs by reducing the number of regularly scheduled hours of work for all, or a group of, individuals during disruptions to regular business activity. Whereas partial benefit formulas look at an individuals’ earnings, a workshare plan looks at the hours of work and provides individuals a pro-rata share of weekly benefits based on the reduction in weekly hours of work.

Employers must submit an STC/workshare plan to the state for approval. The employer’s plan must be consistent with employer’s obligations under applicable federal and state laws. Further, the affected employees’ workweeks must have been reduced by at least 10 percent, and by not more than the percentage, if any, that is determined by the state to be appropriate, but in no case more than 60 percent. Moreover, the STC/workshare plan must provide that employers will maintain health benefits and retirement benefits for affected employees, despite the reduced hours.

The benefits of these programs are numerous. Workshare plans keep the maximum number of employees on the job. Because there are fewer layoffs, the ramp-up process back to operational status is greatly reduced. Further, under the CARES Act, the employer will pay the state an amount equal to half of the amount of short-time compensation paid under such plan. These payments will be deposited in the state’s unemployment fund but will not be used for purposes of calculating an employer’s contribution rate in the future. The positive impact of such a program and the retention of employees versus a layoff, furlough, or termination cannot be overstated.

Employees cannot file for this program themselves. The employer has to make the application.

If you are an employer and would like more information on Florida’s short-term/temporary layoff program, you can visit their website

Alabama is waiving employer charges for COVID-19 related claims and is urging employers to file claims on employees’ behalf. Click here for more details on this measure, or visit the Alabama Department of Labor’s website