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Coronavirus Absences Eligible for Unemployment Benefits: DOL (1)

March 12, 2020, 6:46 PMUpdated: March 12, 2020, 9:50 PM

States can pay unemployment insurance benefits to workers who miss time on the job because of the spread of the new coronavirus and efforts to combat it, the Labor Department said.

The DOL on Thursday released guidance to states on how they can amend their laws to offer jobless benefits to workers impacted by Covid-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. That includes extending benefits to employees who miss work because of quarantine; to those who choose not to work to avoid exposure or to care for a family member; as well as to those whose employers cease or limit operations in response to the pandemic.

“The Administration is using all available tools to decrease the risk of coronavirus in the United States and to assist workers who may be affected,” Labor Secretary Eugene Scalia said in a statement announcing the guidance. “Under the guidance issued today, states have greater assurance about the circumstances in which they are authorized to extend unemployment insurance benefits to Americans whose employment has been disrupted by coronavirus.”

The Labor Department oversees unemployment insurance benefits systems, but states administer applications and payments and generally determine eligibility requirements.

Officials in California are urging workers who see their hours reduced as a result of coronavirus prevention measures to file claims for jobless benefits under the state system.

New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu (R) has proposed expanding the state’s unemployment insurance program to cover workers who need time off for a quarantine or sickness related to coronavirus.

Colorado, which on Wednesday said it would require employers to provide paid leave to certain workers awaiting the results of coronavirus tests, also is considering using unemployment benefits to address the situation.

House Democrats’ package (H.R. 6201) of measures to respond to the expanding public health crisis would provide as much as $1 billion for emergency transfers to states to process unemployment insurance claims and pay benefits. The legislation also would allow states with rising jobless rates to provide an additional 13 weeks of benefits, beyond the standard 26-week period.

(Updated with additional information on state unemployment insurance programs.)

To contact the reporter on this story: Chris Opfer in New York at copfer@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: John Lauinger at jlauinger@bloomberglaw.com; Karl Hardy at khardy@bloomberglaw.com

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