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COVID-19 Employment

Authored By: Lagniappe Law Lab
Contents
What the latest COVID-19 relief legislation means if you're unemployed Related Resources What Workers Need To Know about COVID-19 Protections in the Workplace The Roles of Employers and Workers in Responding to COVID-19 Related Resources Louisiana ended COVID-related unemployment benefits on July 31, 2021 How does this affect me? What if I haven’t filed a claim yet? What if I was denied the extra benefits?

What the latest COVID-19 relief legislation means if you're unemployed

The COVID-19 pandemic is a rapidly changing situation. Check back here periodically for updated information. 

What is the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARPA) and what does it mean for me? 

  • The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARPA), which was signed into law by President Biden on Thursday, March 11, 2021, includes a number of provisions that affect those who are unemployed or under-employed due to the COVID-19 public health emergency including extended benefits.

What benefit extensions are available through the extended COVID-19 relief package? 

  • Under the new COVID-19 relief package, federal unemployment benefits, including Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA), Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC), and Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) have been extended, without interruption, through 9/6/2021. The last payable week for all programs will be the week of 9/4/2021.
  • In order to receive the extended benefits, claimants must continue to certify every week if you are unemployed or under-employed. There is no need to reapply or contact LWC unless your benefit year has come to an end or you are told to submit a new application.

How many weeks of PUA benefits can I receive?

  • PUA is now available through September 6, 2021, or for a total of 79 weeks of benefits, whichever comes first. The phaseout period, included in previous versions of PUA, has been repealed, meaning the last payable week for extended benefits will be the week of 9/4/2021 if the maximum number of benefit weeks have not already been reached.

What should I do for new or continued PUA elibility?

  • Federal law states that all PUA claimants provide employment documentation. Everyone receiving PUA must continue to submit weekly certifications confirming they are still experiencing a COVID-19-related reason for unemployment. Claimants will not receive maximum weeks unless there is another extension because there are not enough weeks through 9/4/21 to cover the maximum number of weeks detailed in the legislation.

How many weeks of PEUC are now available? 

  • PEUC has increased the number of eligible weeks from 24 to 53 weeks after an individual used all 26 weeks of state unemployment insurance benefits. The program has now been extended through September 6, 2021. The program's phaseout period has been repealed meaning the last week of additional benefits will be the week of 9/4/2021. Claimants will not receive maximum weeks unless there is another extension because there are not enough weeks through 9/4/21 to cover the maximum number of weeks detailed in the legislation.

Will my $300 weekly supplement payments continue? 

  • Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) has been extended from March 14, 2021, to the week ending Sept. 4, 2021, at the same $300 level it is currently. This means anyone who qualifies for a weekly benefit payment in either regular, PEUC, or PUA benefits will receive an additional $300 in supplemental FPUC benefits. You won't need to take any additional action to receive these benefits.

Is the normal "waiting week" still in effect? 

  • The ARPA provides reimbursement funding to states that opt to remove the usual “waiting week” provision on new unemployment claims through Sept. 4, 2021. This allows for qualified individuals to be eligible for benefits the first week after their claim has been filed.

    Gov. John Bel Edwards signed the executive order to waive the waiting week for Louisiana-based claims. This provision applies to any new claim with a Benefit Year Beginning (BYB) date of Jan. 3, 2021, or later, with Sept. 4, 2021, the last date a new claim can be filed to include this provision. The Louisiana Workforce Commission (LWC) has programming in place to automatically identify and retroactively pay individuals who have a qualifying claim the waiting week.

    All unemployment claims will continue to go through the normal adjudication process, with ID verification required on all new claims. This provision does not mean benefits will be paid immediately without review.

Are my previous claim disqualifications extended? 

  • Claim disqualifications made under the CARES Act and extended by CAA are extended again by the ARPA. The new extension date of the claim disqualifications is Sept. 4, 2021.
  • The Sept. 4, 2021, date extension does NOT provide for additional appeal rights nor extensions granted for timeliness of appeal request.

Visit LAWORKS.NET for more information

What Workers Need To Know about COVID-19 Protections in the Workplace

COVID-19 spreads mainly among unvaccinated people who are in close contact with one another especially in poorly ventilated spaces.

  • Vaccination is the key in a multi-layered approach to protect workers. Learn about and take advantage of opportunities that your employer may provide to take time off to get vaccinated. Vaccines authorized by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration are highly effective at protecting vaccinated people against symptomatic and severe COVID-19 illness.According to the CDC, a growing body of evidence suggests that fully vaccinated people are less likely to have symptomatic infection or transmit the virus to others. See CDC's Guidance for Fully Vaccinated People.
  • If you are unvaccinated or otherwise at-risk (e.g., because of a prior transplant or other medical condition), you should follow recommended precautions and policies at your workplace.
  • Many employers have established COVID-19 prevention programs that include a number of important steps to keep unvaccinated and otherwise at-risk workers safe.
  • These COVID-19 prevention programs include measures such as telework and flexible schedules, enhanced cleaning programs with a focus on high-touch surfaces, engineering controls (e.g., ventilation), administrative policies (e.g., vaccination policies), personal protective equipment (PPE), face coverings, and physical distancing.
  • Ask your employer about plans in your workplace. In addition, employees with disabilities who are at-risk may request reasonable accommodation under the ADA.

Even if your employer does not have a COVID-19 prevention program, if you are unvaccinated or otherwise at-risk, you can help protect yourself by following the steps listed below:

  • Identify opportunities to get vaccinated. Ask your employer about opportunities for paid leave, if necessary, to get vaccinated and recover from any side effects.
  • Properly wear a face covering over your nose and mouth. Face coverings are simple barriers worn over the face, nose and chin. They work to help prevent your respiratory droplets or large particles from reaching others. If they are of high enough quality, they also provide a measure of protection to the people wearing them. CDC provides general guidance on masks. If you are working outdoors you may opt not to wear face coverings in many circumstances; however, you should be supported in safely continuing face covering use if you choose, especially if you work closely with other people.
  • Stay far enough away from other people so that you are not breathing in particles produced by them – generally at least 6 feet (about 2 arm lengths), although this approach by itself is not a guarantee that you will avoid infection, especially in enclosed or poorly ventilated spaces.
  • Ask your employer about possible telework and flexible schedule options at your workplace, and take advantage of such policies if possible. Perform work tasks, hold meetings, and take breaks outdoors when possible.
  • Participate in any training offered by your employer/building manager to learn how rooms are ventilated effectively and notify the building manager if you see vents that are clogged, dirty, or blocked by furniture or equipment.
  • Practice good personal hygiene and wash your hands often. Always cover your mouth and nose with a tissue, or the inside of your elbow, when you cough or sneeze, and do not spit. Monitor your health daily and be alert for COVID-19 symptoms (e.g., fever, cough, or shortness of breath). 

COVID-19 vaccines are highly effective at keeping you from getting COVID-19. If you are not yet fully vaccinated, or are otherwise at risk, optimum protection is provided by using multiple layers of other interventions that prevent exposure and infection.

The Roles of Employers and Workers in Responding to COVID-19

​​​​Under the OSH Act, employers are responsible for providing a safe and healthy workplace free from recognized hazards likely to cause death or serious physical harm.

  • Except for workplace settings covered by OSHA's ETS and mask requirements for public transportation, most employers no longer need to take steps to protect their workers from COVID-19 exposure in any workplace, or well-defined portions of a workplace, where all employees are fully vaccinated. Employers should still take steps to protect unvaccinated or otherwise at-risk workers in their workplaces, or well-defined portions of workplaces.

Employers should engage with workers and their representatives to determine how to implement multi-layered interventions to protect unvaccinated or otherwise at-risk workers and mitigate the spread of COVID-19, including:

  1. Grant paid time off for employees to get vaccinated.
  2. Implement physical distancing for unvaccinated and otherwise at-risk workers in all communal work areas. 
  3. Provide unvaccinated and otherwise at-risk workers with face coverings or surgical masks, unless their work task requires a respirator or other PPE.
  4. Educate and train workers on your COVID-19 policies and procedures using accessible formats and in language they understand.
  5. Suggest that unvaccinated customers, visitors, or guests wear face coverings, especially in public-facing workplaces such as retail establishments, if there are unvaccinated or otherwise at-risk workers in the workplace who are likely to interact with these customers, visitors, or guests.
  6. Maintain Ventaliation Systems
  7. Perform routine cleaning and disinfection
  8. Record and report COVID-19 infections and deaths
  9. Implement protections from retaliation and set up an anonymous process for workers to voice concerns about COVID-19-related hazards

Visit Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) for more information and guidance.

Louisiana ended COVID-related unemployment benefits on July 31, 2021

 

Aid has ended for all people that are not eligible for regular unemployment benefits. These people may include: 
  • "gig" workers
  • others who did not earn enough wages
  • others who do not get W2s
  • people who can’t work because of COVID, and
  • some people who were disqualified for unemployment

This is aid was called Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA).

 

  • Unemployment for people who used all 26 weeks of their regular state unemployment benefits. This was called Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC).
  • The extra $300 that was added to weekly unemployment checks. This is called Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (PUC).

 

How does this affect me?

If you have been receiving Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA):
  • You will not get paid for any weeks after July. Your claim has ended. This is true even if you have a benefit balance, or if HIRE shows that your claim would not end until September 4, 2021. 
  • If you filed for any weeks after July 31 - you will not be paid for these weeks. You won’t get paid even if the agency says your Hire Account says that your claim is in progress. 
If you have been receiving Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC):
  • You can only get paid if you file a new “claim” for unemployment and you have worked enough since the beginning of your last claim.
If you have been receiving Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC): 
  • If you have been getting more than $247 a week in unemployment, you will now get $300 less per week, if you still get unemployment benefits. This is for any weeks after July 31

What if I haven’t filed a claim yet?

Your benefits for August and after will be decided by state law, with no extra $300 a week. There is no longer coverage for

  • gig workers
  • those who do not have enough wages in the last 18 months
  • those unemployed because of Covid
  • people who have used their 26 weeks of state benefits for the year
  • etc.

If you lost a job before July 31, you can still file a claim to get these benefits for weeks before August. You can file for this until September 4, 2021.

What if I was denied the extra benefits?

  • You can appeal if you were denied these extra benefits for time before August 2021 IF your appeal deadline has not run out.
  • Louisiana Workforce Commission can pay the extra benefits for weeks that were before August.
  • If you got more than one denial notice, it is important to appeal each notice separately.
  • If you have already appealed and you are waiting for a hearing, you will get a hearing. If you win, you will get those benefits for weeks before August 2021
Last Review and Update: Aug 06, 2021