WASHINGTON (AP) – Unemployed Americans who turned down job offers for fear that their potential employers would not provide adequate protection against the coronavirus could be disqualified from receiving unemployment benefits on a Labor Department order on Thursday.
The event will also expand the federal unemployment benefits program set out in last spring’s economic assistance package to include workers who lost their hours or were laid off due to the epidemic. It will also include school staff who lose their jobs or work hours due to school closures.
The federal program, known as the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Program, gives self-employed workers the right to receive unemployment benefits for the first time.
“Until now, unemployment insurance benefits have been too scattered, too uncertain, during the epidemic,” said Patricia Smith, senior adviser to the Secretary of Labor. “That is starting to change today. More workers are now eligible for unemployment insurance benefits.”
Speaking to reporters, department officials declined to estimate how many Americans would now be eligible for unemployment benefits.
Officials say the benefits will return. People who apply for unemployment benefits after December 27 can receive a refund until December 6. Those who have previously applied for: rejection can receive a refund from the time they first applied.
Because unemployed Americans now receive $ 300 a week in federal state benefits at an average of $ 320 a week, retroactive assistance can result in significant lump sum payments. The agency estimates that states will not be able to upgrade their unemployment benefit systems to include the new standards by the end of March, which could mean that the first payments will be about four months of benefits.
Employees whose employers have been shut down by the epidemic are already eligible for federal unemployment benefits. But employees who were fired even when their company was open, such as restaurant waiters who were open for delivery, were not eligible. The directive will now cover those workers, the Department of Labor said.
For the unemployed who have been laid off because of coronavirus concerns, applicants will have to falsely claim that their prospective employer does not comply with state or local guidelines for wearing masks or personal protective equipment, says Susie Levine, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Labor.