Minnesota Unemployment Insurance Benefit Changes Under the Governor’s Emergency Executive Order during the COVID-19 Emergency
The COVID-19 pandemic has caused hardships of every kind from an inability to interact with loved ones to the shuttering of our favorite restaurants. Among the most unnerving consequences, however, is the sudden loss of a job. Thankfully, federal, state and local governments are stepping into the crisis to provide relief. This blog focuses on Governor Walz’s emergency order 20-05 regarding unemployment insurance issued March 13, 2020. Look through the list of other blogs on the Schaefer Halleen website to see analysis of other state, federal, and local laws enacted to blunt the impact of this international emergency on workers.
Understanding Governor Walz’s Executive Order
The Executive Order expands employees’ right to unemployment insurance if they have hours reduced or lose jobs because they have contracted the virus or are kept away from work for safety purposes (obviously a large segment of the working population right now). The law also speeds up the time period for receiving benefits to make workers eligible as soon as possible. While unemployment insurance typically only pays about 50 % of an employee’s average weekly wages, up to $740, even this reduced income can be a lifeline.
Here is how the Executive Order could affect you if you’ve found yourself suddenly out of work because of the pandemic:
- The normal weeklong waiting period is waived to allow people to become eligible as “quickly as possible” for unemployment insurance payments. Don’t wait and apply online to avoid long waits on hold.
- You don’t have to continue to look for work to be eligible if it would put public safety at risk. That provision has yet to be interpreted, but safe to say you don’t have to look for work if you are quarantined or have symptoms. You also shouldn’t have to look for jobs that have been suspended to prevent community transmission such as restaurant and entertainment jobs.
- Your employer does not have to lay you off or terminate you. Employees can apply for benefits if they are on leaves of absence because of the virus.
- The type of out of work employees who are eligible for unemployment has been expanded to include:
- Anyone who has been ordered or recommended to stay at home or in isolation by health officials or their employer due to whether or not the employee has actually contracted the virus. This includes people whose workplaces have been shut down because of the outbreak, people in quarantine, and people whose health providers have determined they are at elevated risk from COVID-19.
- Anyone who must stay at home because school or childcare has been canceled, provided that the applicant made reasonable effort to obtain other childcare and requested time off or other accommodation from the employer and no reasonable accommodation was available.
Of course, the response to this expanded benefit has been overwhelming, literally, for the Department of Employment and Economic Security (DEED), which administers the unemployment compensation system. DEED fielded more than 4,000 calls on Monday, nearly twice its normal number. The insurance website had 90,000 visits — twice the standard Monday number. So again, apply right away and online. And stay safe.
If you have questions about unemployment insurance benefit changes, contact the Minneapolis employment lawyers at Schaefer Halleen.