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COVID-19 prompting states to change unemployment – you must keep up

By March 20, 2020June 2nd, 2020No Comments

The good news: States are rewriting their unemployment insurance (UI) benefits requirements to help laid off workers weather this coronavirus storm.

The bad news: Nonprofits are scrambling to keep up with changing unemployment rules and determine how to best furlough or layoff more people than they ever thought they would.

Now that the coronavirus has come to U.S. shores, many nonprofits, as well as other businesses, have been shuttered in a municipal attempt to contain the virus. Nonprofits that provide face-to-face services for youth and seniors have been particularly hard hit.

State and federal unemployment agencies, naturally, want to help workers laid off by this pandemic. Almost daily, requirements are changing for collecting unemployment benefits, especially in states most affected by COVID-19.

On March 12, U.S. Secretary of Labor Eugene Scalia offered new guidance outlining flexibilities that states have in administering their UI programs to assist workers affected by the COVID-19 outbreak.

Federal law allows states to pay unemployment benefits under these scenarios.

  • If an employer temporarily stops operations due to COVID-19, preventing employees from coming to work.
  • If a worker is quarantined with the expectation of returning to work after the quarantine is over.
  • If an individual leaves employment due to a risk of exposure or infection or to care for a family member.

States, too, are adjusting or changing their UI policies to extend benefits faster and to more people. Some states, for instance, are waiving normal work search requirements (click here for more details), so long as workers are available to return to their previous jobs when virus restrictions ease.

New York, for instance, is among many states that are waiving the traditional seven-day waiting period for UI benefits for workers sidelined due to the coronavirus.

Also, New York now is requiring employers to provide job protection for the duration of the state’s quarantine order. Employers with more than 11 employees must provide paid sick leave for one or two weeks, depending on their size.

Californians, who have been ordered to shelter in place, can apply for UI benefits if they must care for a child whose school is closed because of the virus, and/or their employer has reduced their hours or shut down operations due to COVID-19.

The U.S. Department of labor has a handy tracker that connects you to your state’s unemployment website.

Customers of 501(c) Services and members of 501(c) Agencies Trust should contact us immediately if they have any questions or concerns by clicking here are calling (800) 442-4867.

About the Author

Lisa Kaplan Gordon is a veteran content producer, e-book creator, and social media writer with two Pulitzer Prize nominations and three National Headliners Awards. Her writing has appeared in Washingtonian Magazine, Redbook, Yahoo!, AOL Real Estate, AOL Daily Finance, USA Today, and US Weekly, as well as major metro dailies. She writes several times a month for

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