What’s New in Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Benefits?

Posted on: March 18, 2021

Updated as of 3/16/2021

FEBRUARY 2021 CHANGES TO

PANDEMIC UNEMPLOYMENT ASSISTANCE BENEFITS

On February 25, 2021, the Department of Labor issued new guidelines for the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance benefit program. Certain unemployed workers can get Pandemic Unemployment Assistance even if they were disqualified before.

What new types of individuals may now qualify for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance?

  • If you refuse to return to work that is unsafe.
  • If you refuse to accept a job offer or new work that is unsafe.
  • If you provide services or work for educational institutions or educational agencies, but do not have a contract or a guaranteed expected return date with the educational employer.
  • If you are currently employed, but:
    • Your hours at work have been reduced, OR
    • You are temporarily laid off from your job, OR
    • You are permanently laid off from your job.

What are some examples of refusing to return to work that is unsafe?

  • If your workplace’s conditions do not meet the local, state, or national COVID-19 health and safety standards.
    • For Example:
      • Employees and Customers were not wearing masks.
        • If certain necessary Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) was not provided at work. Examples:
          • Safe disinfectant products to clean highly touched surfaces.
          • Glass/ Plastic shields for customer services booths/counters.
        • Social distancing was not enforced.
      • If you have a high risk health condition and it would not be safe to continue in your workplace because of the risk of getting COVID-19.
        • For Example:
          • Your workplace has a lot of people coming in and out who could expose you to COVID-19.
        • If you are living with a high risk individual.
          • For Example:
            • Living with a person above the age of 50 years old or with a health condition that puts them at risk.

 

What are some examples of refusing to accept a job offer or new work that is unsafe?

  • The examples are like those above.

What are some examples of services or work for educational institutions or educational agencies, that do not have a contract or a guaranteed expected return date with the educational employer?

  • For example:
    • A temporary substitute teacher who is hired on-call to a school or different schools.
    • A school bus driver who is called on an as needed daily, monthly, or yearly basis.
    • A school cafeteria worker who works for an independent company on an as needed daily, monthly, or yearly basis.

What if I meet one of the reasons listed above, but was denied due to that reason?

  • These provisions apply even to your old claim. You may be able to receive back payments of Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, if you applied before and were denied.
  • The agency should be reaching out to individuals who were denied for the reasons listed above. But it may not reach you quickly. You may want to call the Louisiana Workforce Commission’s phone number 1-866-783-5567.
  • The phone line system is usually available from Monday to Friday at 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. You will need to call on your designated day:
    • If your Social Security Number ends with 0000-2499, you are to call on Mondays.
    • If your Social Security Number ends with 2500-4999, you are to call on Tuesdays.
    • If your Social Security Number ends with 5000-7499, you are to call on Wednesdays.
    • If your Social Security Number ends with 7500-9999, you are to call on Thursdays.
    • Anyone can call on Fridays
  • It is always good to check the HIRE website to see if there are any extended call-in times outside normal business hours or days.

 

Since when was Pandemic Unemployment Assistance in effect?

  • The program has been made effective for the weeks ending on February 8, 2020 to September 6, 2021 (current deadline under the American Rescue Plan).
  • This means that if you were denied for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance on February 10, 2020 for one of the new recognized reasons listed above then you may be entitled to receive benefits for the weeks that you were denied.

What if I did not apply for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance benefits because my unemployment reason related to COVID-19 was not covered until now?

  • You can still apply for unemployment compensation and be considered for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance.
  • But your claim can only be backdated to December 1, 2020. You will not be able to get back payments for weeks before that. (These new back payment rules were provided under the Continued Assistance Act and reaffirmed under the American Rescue Plan.)

Other important information:

It is always important that after your apply for unemployment compensation, you remain filing your weekly certifications to confirm your unemployment status.

Even if you are not receiving any payments, it is important to keep filing. As mentioned above, the weekly certifications are a confirmation that you remain unemployed or are experiencing a shortage of hours/days of work due to COVID-19. Once the agency determines you are eligible for benefits, you will receive payments for all weeks that you have successfully filed a weekly certification.

Failure to file weekly certification was sometimes excused in the summer and fall of 2020 last year, but now failure to do this may keep your benefits from continuing.

This post is only meant to provide information on the new Pandemic Unemployment Assistance guidelines, and does not represent legal advice. It is not clear on how back payments will be processed for these new recognized COVID-19 reasons. As mentioned above, you may want to call the Agency for more information.

If you are having problems and need legal assistance, you can apply for our services at our webpage or click here for more information. In addition, our COVID-19 hotline number is 1-844-244-7871.

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