Impact of COVID-19 on Unemployment Insurance Benefits


Posted by: Chris

Effective April 1, 2020, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) expanded the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.  The FFCRA, which applies to employers with 500 or fewer employees, also created the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act that provides several entitlements for employees.

The FFCRA also has an impact on unemployment insurance benefits as follows:

  • If an employee is asked to return to work and refuses -- either due to concerns about COVID-19 exposure or a preference for collecting unemployment insurance benefits -- the employee is disqualified from receiving those benefits from state or federal programs.
  • Any employee qualifying for unpaid medical leave may not be eligible for state unemployment insurance benefits since they are not “able or available for work.”  However, they would still be eligible for these benefits under the federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program.
  • PUA is available to unemployed workers who are ineligible for state benefits or Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (PEUC). PUA benefits are not available for individuals who are working remotely with pay or individuals receiving paid sick or other leave.  Unemployed workers may qualify for PUA benefits for any of the following reasons related to COVID-19:
    • Has been diagnosed with COVID-19 or has symptoms and is in the process of getting a medical diagnosis.
    • Has a household member who has been diagnosed with COVID-19.
    • Is providing care for a family or household member who has been diagnosed with COVID-19.
    • Is the primary caregiver for a child or other household member who cannot attend school or other facility that has been closed due to COVID-19, which directly impacts the worker’s ability to return to work.
    • Is unable to reach their workplace either because of (1) a government-imposed quarantine due to the COVID-19 pandemic, or (2) advice provided by a health care provider to self-quarantine due to COVID-19 concerns.
    • Has been scheduled to return to work but no longer has a job or is unable to reach their workplace due to COVID-19 public health emergency.
    • Has become the primary supporter of a household because of the death of a head of household due to COVID-19.
    • Has to quit his or her job as a direct result of COVID-19.
    • Closure of an individual’s workplace due to COVID-19.

If your employer has violated your right to FMLA leave or other employee benefits, contact our experienced attorneys today. We will work tirelessly to hold your employer accountable and protect your rights in the workplace. Please call Armstrong & Vaught, P.L.C. today at 918-582-2500, toll-free at (800) 722-8880, or contact us online for a free consultation with an experienced attorney.