The disruption to the economy caused by the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic has left many employers with difficult choices. Many businesses have been ordered to close, while others have seen a substantial decline in business. The results have included layoffs, furloughs and employee terminations. Congress has answered in several ways to help businesses and their employees. In the area of unemployment, there have been several legislative responses.
On March 27, 2020, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, or the CARES Act, was signed into law. There are multiple programs and grants that relate to unemployment. A few examples include:
- Pandemic Unemployment Assistance – 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, extended benefits or Pandemic Unemployment Compensation.
- Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation – Provides individuals who are collecting unemployment compensation with an additional $600 per week.
- Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation – Provides up to 13 weeks of benefits to individuals who have exhausted unemployment compensation and are able and available to work.
- Temporary Financing for Short-Time Compensation (STC) – Provides for States to be reimbursed for either half or 100% of STC benefits, up to a maximum of 26 weeks of STC per individual.
On April 3, 2020, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), went into effect. The FFCRA allots $1,000,000,000 in federal grants to States for purposes of administering their respective Unemployment Insurance programs.
In order to take advantage of these grant funds, each State must comply with certain mandates. In turn, the States will require compliance from employers:
- At the time of employment separation, employers must notify the employee(s) of the availability of unemployment compensation.
- The United States Labor Department has issued the following as model language for employers to use in their notifications: https://wdr.doleta.gov/directives/attach/UIPL/UIPL_13-20_Attachment_III.pdf
- The fillable content depends upon the state in which the employer is located. In Pennsylvania, the pertinent information is as follows:
- Phone number to file a claim: 1-888-313-7284
- Website to file a claim: https://www.uc.pa.gov/unemployment-benefits/Pages/default.aspx
- Email contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
While difficult decisions concerning employees need to be made, the enhanced Unemployment Insurance benefits now available may help to alleviate some of the anguish. If you have any questions regarding your obligations as an employer under the Families First or CARES Acts, please contact us. We wish you well during these extraordinary times.