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Unemployment benefits are now available to those who were previously banned: what you need to know

The US Department of Labor has expanded eligibility criteria for unemployment benefits. This includes those in hazardous jobs, as well as unemployed parents who were forced to resign when schools and childcare facilities closed. When the children returned to school, they were left without work. More about who can now receive benefits, told the publication CNBC.

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The Labor Department has expanded the conditions under which workers are eligible for unemployment insurance benefits through the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Program (PUA). The decree expands the right to participate:

  • workers who have been denied unemployment benefits after refusing to work in unsafe conditions;
  • school staff and staff who have been impacted by school closures due to lower wages or who are uncertain about continued pay;
  • workers who have reduced working hours or who have lost their jobs as a result of the pandemic.

“Today's leadership opens the door for workers facing difficult and sometimes impossible choices between accepting an unsafe workplace for a stable source of income and protecting the health of themselves and their loved ones,” said Patricia Smith, senior adviser to the head of the Department of Labor.

On the subject: Unemployment Insurance Fraud: What To Do If Someone Claims On Your behalf

School personnel and workers who do not feel safe are entitled to claim unemployment benefits. The new guidelines, among other things, offer assistance to those who have had to deal with childcare and school closures affecting their work, even after schools have returned to in-person attendance.

“This is great news for parents who quit their jobs when schools closed and then lost their jobs when schools reopened,” said Elizabeth Pancotti, director of policy at Employ America. She noted that if parents had to quit their jobs directly due to COVID-19, even if schools reopen, they would be eligible for unemployment benefits.

The new leadership addresses this "egregious problem" for parents who had to quit their jobs because their child's school closed and then had no job to return to when it reopened, says Andrew Stettner. Senior Fellow at the Century Foundation and Leading Expert in Unemployment Insurance.

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The latest eligibility extension is part of the PUA program, which was created under the CARES assistance package passed by Congress about a year ago. The program reaches out to business owners, self-employed Americans, and independent contractors who have been unemployed or have significantly reduced their hours as a result of the pandemic. The PUA program is 100% federally funded but administered by each state.

The February 25 change in eligibility is retroactive, so workers who were previously denied benefits can reapply and receive benefits from the start of the unemployment period. At the same time, employees who applied for unemployment benefits after December 27, 2020, are entitled to receive benefits only a few weeks after December 6, 2020.

The Department of Labor requires states to offer workers the option to choose more than one reason for their COVID-19 unemployment. Thus, they will be eligible for benefits, even if one of the reasons disappears.

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