The U.S. Department of Labor has issued new guidance to state unemployment issuance agencies, expanding the eligibility factors for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance.
Under this guidance, agencies are allowed to expand unemployment insurance eligibility to three categories of workers. These include workers receiving unemployment benefits who had regular unemployment benefits claims denied after refusing to work or accept a work offer at a place of employment that was not in compliance with health and safety standards; workers who were laid off or had reduced work hours as a result of the pandemic; and school employees working without a contract or “reasonable assurance of continued employment…”
These eligibility factors are retroactive, dating back to the beginning of the PUA program. Those applying for unemployment are required to self-certify that they are unemployed while being “unable or unbailable to work because of identified coronavirus-related reasons during the applicable time period.”
According to the Department of Labor, those filing for their first initial PUA claim after Dec. 27, 2020 will be limited to unemployment weeks that begin on or after Dec. 6, 2020.
“Our nation cannot afford to continue compounding the already-devastating effects of the ongoing pandemic-related economic crisis by leaving workers destitute and living in fear for their health and their lives,” Patricia Smith, senior advisor to the Secretary of Labor, said in a statement. “Today’s guidance opens the door to relief for workers who have faced difficult, if not impossible, choices between accepting employment in an unsafe workplace to receive a steady source of income, and protecting their health and that of their loved ones.”
The U.S. Department of Labor will be providing funding to state unemployment agencies to make the changes required to update their systems to allow for retroactive payment of PUA claims.
Under the Continued Assistance Act, the PUA program was extended until March 13 with individuals allowed to collect weekly benefits until April 10, 2021.