COVID-19 Unemployment Update

April 30, 2020 – An update to your legal rights for unemployment and sick leave in Pennsylvania in New Jersey during the coronavirus pandemic, by Joyce L. Collier, Esq.

Under the Federal Cares Act of 2020, emergency assistance has been provided to state unemployment programs to help workers and persons who find themselves without any or enough employment or work due to COVID-19.

The Federal Cares Act temporarily supplements state unemployment benefit amounts and extends the duration of those benefits.

The following is a brief overview of unemployment benefits currently available in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. We recommend applying online so you that will have a record of your application. Beware of fraudulent unemployment websites. Always ensure that you are on the following websites when filing for benefits, changing your personal information, or signing up for direct deposit:

Pennsylvania

Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (PUC)

https://www.uc.pa.gov/unemployment-benefits/file/Pages/Filing%20Instructions.aspx

These are “regular” unemployment benefits for persons who are considered “employees” whose hours are reduced by more than 20%, who are laid off or terminated due to COVID-19.

In addition to state unemployment benefits, you will receive a separate check of $600 per week as a supplemental unemployment benefit through July 25, 2020, regardless of whether you were a part-time or full-time employee. You do not need to file a separate application for the $600 benefit.

You are be eligible for an additional 13 weeks of unemployment beyond the standard 26-week period, for a total of 39 weeks. This is called a “PEUC” benefit.

Other changes from “standard” unemployment: no work search requirements and no waiting week.

Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA)

https://pua.benefits.uc.pa.gov/vosnet/Default.aspx

PUA recipients are eligible for 39 weeks of benefits from $195 – $572, plus the $600 benefit (mentioned above) every week (PUC) from April to July. Eligible people include:

  • Freelancers and gig workers, such as Uber drivers;
  • Self-employed people, like painters and hair stylists with their own salons;
  • Other owners of small businesses;
  • People who do not have adequate recent work history to qualify for UC.

The application process for PUA is not simple; documentation of employment/self-employment and wages/earnings must be attached. Do not apply for “regular” unemployment benefits.

Workers are not eligible for PUA if they can either telework with pay or are receiving paid sick days or paid leave.

This program runs from January 27, 2020 through December 31, 2020. Workers will be eligible for retroactive benefits.

New Jersey

Pandemic Unemployment Compensation

https://myunemployment.nj.gov/labor/myunemployment/schedule.shtml

These are “regular” unemployment benefits for persons who are considered “employees” whose hours are reduced by more than 20%, who are laid off or terminated due to COVID-19.

In addition to state unemployment benefits, you will receive a separate check of $600 per week as a supplemental unemployment benefit through July 25, 2020, regardless of whether you were a part-time or full-time employee. You do not need to file a separate application for the $600 benefit.

You are eligible for an additional 13 weeks of unemployment beyond the standard 26-week period, for a total of 39 weeks. This is called a “PEUC” benefit.

Other changes from “standard” unemployment: no work search requirements and no waiting week. PUC is also not income for purposes of eligibility for either Medicaid or CHIP.

Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA)

https://myunemployment.nj.gov/labor/myunemployment/assets/pdfs/UI_process_selfemployed.pdf

PUA recipients are eligible for 39 weeks of benefits from $195 – $572, plus the $600

PUC benefit every week from April to July 25, 2020. Eligible people include:

  • Freelancers and gig workers, such as Uber drivers;
  • Self-employed people, like painters and hair stylists with their own salons;
  • Other owners of small businesses;
  • People who do not have adequate recent work history to qualify for UC.

The application process for PUA is not simple; documentation of employment/self-employment and wages/earnings must be attached. In New Jersey, you may have to apply for “regular” unemployment benefits and be rejected before you are eligible for PUA.

COVID-19 Sick Leave Update

In response to COVID-19, Congress has also enacted the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), which includes the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act and the Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act.

The FFCRA covers private employers with less than 500 employees and certain public employers. The FFCRA is effective April 1, 2020 through December 31, 2020.

Under the FFCRA:

  • An employee who is ill or quarantined by a physician or government order is eligible for up to two weeks (80 hours) of paid sick leave at the employee’s regular rate of pay (up to a maximum of $511 per day)
  • An employee who cannot work because he/she is caring for someone with COVID-19 or a child whose school/day care is closed is eligible for up to two weeks (80 hours) of paid sick leave at 2/3 the regular rate of pay (up to a maximum of $200 per day). This leave may be intermittent if the employee and employer agree.
  • Employees who have worked 30 days are eligible for up to 10 additional weeks of partially paid leave (2/3 of the employee’s regular rate of pay, up to a maximum of $200 per day/$10,000 max)

NOTE: Employers with less than 50 employees may seek an exemption from these child-care related provisions of this act if the leave payments would jeopardize the viability of their business as a going concern. Employers may also exclude health care providers or emergency responders from taking paid sick leave.

If you are a full or part-time employee in New Jersey, you may be eligible for paid sick leave under state law. https://www.nj.gov/labor/worker-protections/earnedsick/

Employers of all sizes must provide employees with up to 40 hours a year of paid sick leave per year to full-time, part-time or temporary workers (*regardless of immigration status). This law also covers taking off due to school closes because of a public health emergency

Should you have any questions about unemployment or the applicability of the FFCRA, please do not hesitate to contact our office.