How to Get Relief as an Employee During the COVID-19 Pandemic

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COVID-19 Unemployment

If you’re feeling overwhelmed and concerned amid the rapid changes in the business environment due to the coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19) — and how they’re affecting your day-to-day life and livelihood — you’re not alone. Thankfully, various resources, remedies and relief are available to help you, as an employee, get through this difficult time.

Here are a few ways you can learn more about some recent changes that affect workers and seek aid.

Sick Leave or Expanded Family and Medical Leave

Congress recently passed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) as a way to offer relief to workers impacted by the coronavirus and its economic effects, and it went into effect on April 1, 2020. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, “The FFCRA requires certain employers to provide their employees with paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave for specified reasons related to COVID-19.” The FFCRA permits small and midsize employers with fewer than 500 employees to take advantage of two new refundable payroll tax credits that are designed to immediately and fully reimburse them for the cost of providing coronavirus-related leave to their employees. The benefits: Employees can receive up to 80 hours of paid sick leave and expanded paid child-care leave. For more details about FFCRA and tax credits, click here. To access an extensive list of questions and answers that the Department of Labor has addressed, and Barrett & Farahany has compiled, click here.

Expanded Unemployment Benefits for Individuals

The newly enacted Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act includes expanded rights to unemployment compensation for individuals who are unemployed due to COVID-19-related reasons. For example, the CARES Act also provides for the following:

  • Unemployment compensation for gig workers (those who typically get job or task assignments using a website or mobile app that helps match them with customers), self-employed individuals, independent contractors and others whose work histories might not otherwise qualify.
  • An amount of $600 per week in unemployment compensation benefits, in addition what an individual would be entitled to receive under state law, for up to four months.
    • An extended period of receiving unemployment benefits (an individual can get an extra 13 weeks), through Dec. 31, 2020. However, anyone who is receiving paid sick leave from an employer cannot also receive unemployment compensation.

The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP)

PPP was created to help small businesses keep workers on their payroll, which looks to be good news for employees. Businesses receive incentives to keep their workers employed, and they can access much needed capital to cover the cost of retaining employees. You can learn more about PPP here.

Mandatory Employer Filing for Unemployment Claims

The state of Georgia has created an emergency rule, effective March 16, 2020, that requires employers to file partial unemployment claims on behalf of their employees for any week during which an employee works less than full time due to a partial or total company shutdown caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. For you, as an employee, that means you could receive your benefits faster (potentially 48 hours after your employer files the claim online). Plus, you don’t have to take the time to file the claim yourself.

The new rules and ways of being that we have to adjust to as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic often feel overwhelming and scary. We’re all in this together, and at some point we will see a light at the end of the tunnel. In the meantime, we’ll continue to rely on the resources and relief available to us — and each other.

Amanda Farahany
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