States Adjust Unemployment Requirements in Face of COVID-19

Posted By Mike Meyer, Friday, March 20, 2020

state legislature

By Patrick O'Brien, JD, legal coordinator, American Med Spa Association

In light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting economic disruption, multiple states have adopted emergency rules relaxing many of the requirements needed to apply for unemployment, allowing more flexibility for employers and jobseekers. Here are several states that have made changes. Not all states are listed so if you do not see your state below, reach out to your workforce commission for details. New aid packages and rules are coming in daily, so if you have been affected by this pandemic, check back frequently with your state and watch the news for additional information.

  • Washington: Washington state has adopted emergency rules that allow workers who are mildly ill with COVID-19, are quarantined due to exposure or are immunocompromised, or are caring for a family member to be eligible for unemployment insurance. Under the normal rules, these people would not be able to apply. The Employment Security Department has a helpful chart here and provides an information page here.
  • New Hampshire: New Hampshire has expanded eligibility to persons under quarantine, those caring for quarantined family members and those whose employment has been disrupted by school closures. You can find more information here.
  • Ohio: By executive order, Ohio has opened unemployment benefits to people who have been requested to self-isolate, and the normal waiting period for eligibility is waived. To help employers, any unemployment claim during this declared emergency is mutualized among contributory employers. Information on Ohio unemployment coverage is available here.
  • Texas: So far, Texas has not made any large changes, but it has waived its work search requirement and one-week waiting period; you can learn more here. However, Governor Greg Abbott has ordered bars and restaurants closed across the state beginning midnight Friday, so additional changes may be forthcoming.
  • California: California has not made major changes to its benefit programs in light of COVID-19, but its programs were fairly comprehensive prior to the crisis. Workers who fall ill or are quarantined and are unable to work can file a disability insurance claim. By executive order, the one-week unpaid waiting period has been waived. Workers can file a Paid Family Leave claim if they miss work due to caring for a family member. Also, missed work due to a child's school being closed is treated as an unemployment insurance claim on a case-by-case basis. Here is a helpful resource put together by the state.
  • New York: New York state has waived its seven-day unpaid waiting period to apply for unemployment benefits. The Department of Labor requires that businesses provide notice prior to closing or layoffs and offers some alternatives to layoffs. Here is a helpful information resource put together by the state's Office of Emergency Management.
  • Pennsylvania: Pennsylvania has suspended its waiting week and work search requirements for unemployment insurance. You also can apply if you employer tells you to stay home for fear of spreading or contracting the disease, in addition to reduced hours or job loss because of the ongoing crisis. Here is a useful information page.
  • Massachusetts: Massachusetts has excused and extended deadlines for both employers and jobseekers concerning unemployment claims. Additionally, work search requirements have been altered to favor paying benefits, and seminars are suspended. More information is available here.

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