According to the
latest unemployment projections from the St. Louis Federal Reserve, the
COVID-19 emergency is likely to cost 47 million jobs and push the unemployment
rate above 30%. Unsurprisingly, the number of unemployment claims filed has
reached historic levels. For the week ending on March 21, a record 3.3 million
Americans filed initial jobless claims with an estimated 2.65 million to follow
in the next week. The various state departments of unemployment are overwhelmed
with claims and Wisconsin is no exception. The Wisconsin Department of
Workforce Development, which handles unemployment claims in the State, reported
that a typical week the number of calls it receives is roughly 24,000. However,
during this emergency, the Department reported it is now receiving a staggering
1.5 million calls per week. Since March 15th, Wisconsin unemployment filings reached
nearly 222,000, compared to roughly 13,000 filing during the same time last
year. As a result, many Wisconsinites have questions about the unemployment
process. This article will address many of the frequently asked questions.
Am I Eligible for Unemployment If I Have Been Laid Off Due to the Coronavirus?
Generally, yes. Wisconsin
unemployment benefits are available to any worker who is unemployed through no
fault of his own. Many employers are unable to operate during this time due to
Governor Ever’s March 24th Safer-At-Home Order. In response, many employers are
reducing their workforce on a temporary basis with the intention of hiring back
its employees once the emergency concludes. Regardless of the exact language
used – furloughed, laid off, terminated, fired, etc. – employees are eligible
for unemployment benefits if they are unemployed through no fault of their own.
My Employer Has Not Fired Me But My Workplace Is Closed And I Have No Hours to
Work, Am I Eligible for Unemployment?
Assuming you meet the
monetary criteria and weekly eligibility requirement, you will be eligible for
unemployment. If you are unemployed through no fault of your own, you are
eligible for benefits in the State of Wisconsin. An employer does not need to
formally fire an employee for the employee to be eligible for unemployment.
Where an employer has no hours for you to work and the business is closed due
to the coronavirus, you will be eligible for unemployment as if you had been
formally fired. Even those workers who have had their hours reduced, but are
still working, may be eligible for unemployment in certain circumstances.
I Am Self-Quarantining Due to the Coronavirus, Will I Be Eligible for
Generally, no. To
receive unemployment benefits, an individual must be unemployed through no
fault of his or her own. While many businesses have been closed due to the
coronavirus, many essential services continue to operate. If your workplace
remains open and has hours for you to work, you will likely not be eligible for
unemployment benefits while you self-quarantine.
While you may
not be eligible for unemployment benefits, the federal government has provided
relief to workers suffering from the coronavirus. The Families First
Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) goes into effect on April 2nd. Among other
provisions, it provides for Emergency Paid Sick Leave for most workers affected
by the coronavirus. This Act now allows an eligible employee to take paid sick
leave because the employee is:
- Subject to a federal, state or local quarantine or isolation order related to COVID-19;
- Advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine due to COVID-19 concerns;
- Experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and seeking medical diagnosis;
- Caring for an individual subject to a federal, state, or local quarantine or isolation order or advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine due to COVID-19 concerns;
- Caring for the employee’s child if the child’s school or place of care is closed or the child’s care provider is unavailable due to public health emergency; or
- Experiencing any other substantially similar condition specified by the Secretary of Health and Human Services in consultation with the Secretary of the Treasury and the Secretary of Labor.
If an employee
meets any of these categories, the employer will be responsible for providing
80 hours of paid sick leave at the employee’s regular rate or two-thirds of the
employee’s regular rate if the employee falls under categories 4, 5, or 6
above. This paid sick leave provision will remain in effect until December 31,
I Am Sick At Home With the Coronavirus, Will I Be Eligible For Unemployment
unemployment applicants must be able to work, available for work, and actively
seeking suitable work. If you are so ill that you are unable to work, you would
not meet these criteria. However, you should be aware that you may be eligible
for unemployment benefits if you have subject to a mandatory quarantine by
federal, state or local government.
the individual’s unemployment benefit eligibility, he or she may still be
covered under existing laws concerning sick leave including the Family and
Medical Leave Act (FMLA). Also, as stated above, the FFCRA provides
coronavirus-related paid sick leave effective April 2nd.
With So Many Businesses Temporarily Closing Due to Coronavirus, Am I Required
to Look For Work to Receive Unemployment Benefits?
requirement to receive unemployment benefits in Wisconsin is that the
individual must complete 4 work search actions per week. However, by Executive
Order of Governor Evers on March 18th, the work search requirement has been
waived for the duration of the coronavirus emergency.
Is There Any Additional Unemployment Assistance Available In Response to the
government has enacted legislation that provides additional unemployment
assistance to the unemployed. The Relief for Workers Affected by Coronavirus
Act has received much attention due to the direct payments provision which
provides up to $1,200 in direct cash payment to applicable Americans. However,
the relief bill also extends additional coverage to the States for its
unemployed individuals. Qualifying individuals may receive up to an additional
$600 per week in unemployment benefits, above and in excess of any state
provided benefits, for the next four months (ending on July 31, 2020). In
Wisconsin, most persons receive the state weekly maximum benefit of $340 per
week. With the federal stimulus bill, you may receive an additional $600 per
week, or $940 per week total in unemployment benefits.
federal law may extend existing benefits. Under Wisconsin law, unemployment
benefits are provided for a maximum of 26 weeks. However, the federal relief
bills may extend unemployment benefits beyond existing limits to qualifying
states – up to an additional 26 weeks. At this time, it has not been determined
if Wisconsin qualifies for extended benefits, but if so, it may provide
additional relief to those economically affected by the coronavirus.
This article has sought to provide answers to commonly asked questions regarding unemployment benefits in Wisconsin during this challenging time. Governments continue to aggressively monitor and address challenges faced by the Coronavirus and we may expect to see additional remedial legislation and updates in the future. For legal advice regarding unemployment benefits, or for any other employment law issues you may be facing, please contact us 262-652-5050 for a free consultation.