CARES Act Unemployment Benefits: Highlights from DOL FAQs on Work Search and Job Refusal

April 30, 2020 — Blog    — Coronavirus Bulletin    — In Case You Missed It...    — Press Releases   

The CARES Act provided much needed support and economic relief for workers by making a significant investment in expanded unemployment benefits for individuals who lost their jobs or have been unable to work due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, a number of concerns have been raised that the additional $600 per week in benefits could mean some workers receive more on unemployment than their paycheck. As businesses re-open, employers don’t want to compete with unemployment to bring workers back.

In response, Department of Labor (DOL) recently issued FAQ’s that address questions about work search and job refusal when an individual receives Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA). Individuals receiving PUA receive a base level amount of benefits based on their previous earnings, plus an additional $600 per week under the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) program. Below are highlights from the guidance, which can be found here: https://wdr.doleta.gov/directives/attach/UIPL/UIPL_16-20_Change_1.pdf

  1. Question: If an individual refuses to return to work when called back by the employer because he or she wanted to receive unemployment benefits, would he or she be eligible for PUA?

Answer: No. If the individual refused work in order to file for unemployment benefits, he or she is not unemployed, partially unemployed, or not able or not available to work for one of the COVID-19 related reasons listed in section 2102(a)(3)(A)(ii)(I) of the CARES Act. Thus, the individual would not qualify for PUA.

  1. Question: Is an individual required to search for work while collecting PUA benefits?

Answer: The applicable state UC laws related to continued claims are applicable to PUA claims. However, states may use the emergency flexibility described in UIPL No. 13-20 to temporarily modify or suspend work search requirements as needed to respond to the spread of COVID-19.

  1. Question: How does an individual meet the able and available provisions of PUA if he or she is ill due to COVID-19, caring for someone with COVID-19, or unable to work due to travel restrictions due to COVID-19?

Answer: An individual satisfies the able and available provisions by certifying each week that he or she is not able or available to work because one of the COVID-19 related reasons listed in section 2102(a)(3)(A)(ii)(I) of the CARES Act, but he or she would otherwise be available.

  1. Question: Is an individual who refuses an offer of work eligible for PUA?

Answer: No, unless the individual is unable to work as a direct result of COVID-19. Eligibility for PUA requires that the individual be able to work and available to work within the meaning of applicable state law, unless the individual is unable or unavailable to accept the offer of work because of a reason listed under section 2102(a)(3)(A)(ii)(I) of the CARES Act, he or she would not be eligible for PUA.

  1. Question: If the jurisdiction’s stay at home order due to the COVID-19 emergency is lifted and an employer has called his or her employees back to work, is an individual who refuses to return to work due to a general fear of exposure to the coronavirus still eligible for PUA?

Answer: To qualify for PUA, the individual must be unemployed, partially unemployed, or unable or unavailable to work because of a COVID-19 related reason listed in section 2102(a)(3)(A)(ii)(I). An individual who does not go to work due to general concerns about exposure to COVID-19, and who does not meet any of the other COVID-19 related criteria for PUA, is not eligible for PUA because general concerns about exposure to COVID-19 is not one of the reasons listed in section 2102(a)(3)(A)(ii)(I).

Want to read more on the fight against Coronavirus? Read our Coronavirus Bulletin here which contains our extensive FAQ about recent federal actions.

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