Labor & Employment Alert: Update On the Federal Government's $600 Unemployment Increase
By Stephen P. Bond on April 6, 2020
Based on information published by the Department of Labor (DOL) last Saturday,1 here is an update on what is happening with the Federal Government’s unusual $600 increase in unemployment benefits, authorized by Congress:
§ Section 2104 of the CARES Act provides for a temporary emergency increase in the unemployment compensation benefits which would otherwise be available to laid off employees. This increase of $600 per week is in addition to the normal Ohio benefit that would be due; and the cost is 100% federally funded. (States are not permitted to charge this back to employers so as to impact their experience ratings.)
§ If the individual is eligible to receive at least one dollar ($1) of underlying benefits for the claimed week, the claimant will receive the full $600 under the federal program.
§ The program is administered by the states, pursuant to a new agreement between each of them and the DOL. All states have executed agreements with the department as of March 28, 2020.
§ The benefit payments may begin as soon as the week after the execution of a signed agreement between the department and states. States are expected to issue the payments as soon as administratively feasible. The timeline for these payments will vary by state.
§ States have the discretion to pay it out at the same time as the regular unemployment checks, or they can issue it as separate checks.
What is the status of this from the Ohio perspective? The Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) states this on their website:
Q: What is being done for unemployed individuals who still cannot access unemployment? Phones (when the only option is to call) and site are not working, and people are being denied automatically. When will the stimulus ($600 per week) go into effect?
A: We apologize for your difficulties. The high claims volume has slowed processing times, but our unemployment team is working hard to process claims and distribute payments as quickly as possible. They are adding more customer service representatives and have expanded call center hours to 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. weekdays, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays, and 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sundays. In addition, all benefits will be retroactive to the date claimants became eligible.
Brouse McDowell’s Labor and Employment team is closely monitoring COVID-19 and keeping up to date on the legal issues and implications for our clients. Please contact us with any questions.
1 The U.S. Department of Labor Insurance Guidance Letter 15-20 and “News Release,” Employment and Training Administration, April 4, 2020, Release Number 20-576-NAT, https://www.dol.gov/newsroom/releases/eta/eta20200404.