What unemployment benefits are my employees eligible for given the changes due to the coronavirus?
As the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak continues to evolve, businesses are evaluating how to continue operations amidst a myriad of challenges. Strategies such as implementing telecommuting programs, enforcing fully remote workspaces, eliminating business travel and limiting visitors are all efforts to protect employees and limit the spread of the virus while still conducting business. However, some employers are facing significant financial hardships causing them to reduce work hours, eliminate shifts, or permanently lay-off workers to ease their financial burdens. In light of these challenging times, it’s important to know what benefits may be available through unemployment benefits.
State of Ohio – Unemployment Benefits Overview
Eligibility for Unemployment Benefits
According to the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS), to qualify for unemployment benefits, the following four key factors must be met:
- You are “totally” or “partially” unemployed at the time you file your application.
- Totally Unemployed – You performed no services for your employer, and no earnings or income are payable to you during the week you apply for benefits.
- Partially Unemployed – Your employer let you go before the end of your usual work week, or reduced your work hours to less than your full-time work week AND you earn less than the unemployment weekly benefit amount.
- You worked enough weeks and earned enough money in “covered” employment during the “base period” of your claim.
- You are unemployed through no fault of your own.
- If you had a prior benefit account, you reestablished yourself as a worker by performing enough work since the prior account began.
Minimum Number of Weeks
You must have worked at least 20 weeks in covered employment during the base period. If you worked for more than one covered employer during the base period, you may still be eligible.
If an application is filed in 2020, you must have an average weekly wage (before taxes or other deductions) of at least $269.00 during the base period.
Claimants must file for a week of unemployment benefits no later than three weeks (21 days) after the Sunday date of the week being claimed. Claims for benefits filed beyond this time limit will be disallowed unless you can establish that the late filing was for reasons beyond your control.
Coronavirus – State of Ohio Emergency Declaration
An executive order issued by Governor DeWine expands flexibility for Ohioans to receive unemployment benefits during Ohio’s emergency declaration period.
Temporary Shut-Down of Business
The emergency declaration expands flexibility for employees to receive unemployment benefits should the COVID-19 result in a temporary shut-down of an employer’s business. Additionally, benefits will be available for eligible individuals who are requested by a medical professional, local health authority, or employer to be isolated or quarantined as a consequence of COVID-19, even if they are not actually diagnosed with COVID-19. In addition, the waiting period for eligible Ohioans to receive unemployment benefits (generally one week) will be waived.
Reduced Work Schedules/Partial Unemployment
If COVID-19 results in a reduced work schedule to less than your full-time work week AND you earn less than the unemployment weekly benefit amount, you may be eligible for benefits. All income including payments other than wages (severance pay, vacation pay, workers compensation, among others) would be deducted from the weekly unemployment benefit.
If an employer lays off employees due to the loss of production caused by the coronavirus, employees will be eligible for unemployment insurance benefits if the employees are otherwise eligible. An executive order issued by Governor DeWine expands flexibility for Ohioans to receive unemployment benefits during Ohio’s emergency declaration period.
Employees Facing Mandatory Quarantines
If an employee is in mandatory quarantine because of suspicion of having the coronavirus, the executive order issued by Governor Dewine states that employees who are quarantined are considered to be unemployed, and therefore may be eligible to receive unemployment benefits.
Employee Imposes a Self-Quarantine
If an asymptomatic employee imposes a self-quarantine because of the coronavirus, in most cases they will be ineligible for unemployment benefits. Unemployment benefits are available to individuals who are totally or partially unemployed due to no fault of their own. In this example, the individual – not the employer – is choosing not to work and, therefore, would be ineligible. However, the facts of each circumstance are important. If the employer allowed this individual to telework, they would not qualify for benefits because they would not be unemployed. If the employer required the individual to stay home but did not offer telework, the individual might be eligible for benefits if they meet the monetary and weekly eligibility criteria.
How to Apply
In Ohio according to ODJFS, there are two ways to file an application for Unemployment Insurance Benefits:
- Online: File online at http://unemployment.ohio.gov, 24 hours/day, 7 days/week.
- Telephone: Call toll-free 1-877-644-6562 or TTY 1-614-387-8408, (excluding holidays) Monday through Friday 8 AM – 5 PM.
NOTE: The Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) is instructing Ohio employers planning layoffs or shutdowns as a result the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic to share the following mass lay-off number with their employees to speed the processing of unemployment benefits: 2000180. The agency also is providing instructions for employers to share with their employees about how to apply for benefits.
To stay on top of updates to the evolving decisions surrounding unemployment benefits related to COVID-19, visit the ODJFS Coronavirus and Unemployment Insurance Benefits FAQs.
State of Kentucky – Unemployment Benefits
Similar to Ohio, Kentucky provides weekly unemployment benefits ranging from $39 to $552 per week dependent upon a claimant’s past wages. Governor Andy Beshear is adjusting some of the rules to unemployment benefits in light of the COVID-19 pandemic and the state of emergency he declared on March 6, 2020. Some of the changes include:
- Waiving the seven-day waiting period to obtain unemployment insurance benefits
- Waiving work search requirements while the state of emergency is in effect
Employees who have been laid off because of the new coronavirus or whose hours have been cut are also encouraged to apply for benefits. Those quarantined may also be eligible. If approved, the first payment would be for 14 days of benefits, an increase from the usual one week.
Per Kentucky state law, those who qualify for unemployment benefits are not given them for the first week of their eligibility, but Governor Beshear’s order waves that provision according to the Louisville Courier Journal.
To learn more about Kentucky unemployment benefits or to apply, visit the website at www.kcc.ky.gov or call (502) 875-0442.