WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Maggie Hassan (D-NH) are calling for the Department of Labor to revise its policy that has limited the ability of workers whose hours have been reduced from receiving unemployment insurance (UI) benefits through the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program. The letter was also signed by Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), and Mark Warner (D-VA).
The senators are raising this issue after hearing from constituents who have been denied PUA benefits even though they had their hours reduced or have been temporarily laid off due to changes in how businesses are operating amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Current Department of Labor policy states that these workers are ineligible for PUA benefits if their workplaces are open, and the Senators are calling for this to change.
“We believe workers who have their hours reduced or are temporarily laid off when their employer reduces business operations due to COVID-19 are covered under PUA, and that the Department of Labor has the authority under the law to clarify its guidance to ensure these workers are eligible for PUA benefits,” wrote the senators. “The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act established PUA to ensure that workers who lose their jobs during the pandemic and are not traditionally eligible for unemployment insurance can receive needed support during COVID-19.
The senators continued, “Partial closures are very common for businesses like restaurants that are operating with limited indoor dining capacity, or only offering take-out services, and have resulted in many service workers working reduced hours or being temporarily laid off even though their employer remains open. The recent guidance directs states to deny PUA eligibility to workers who have been impacted by partial closures. This is of particular concern for workers who do not have sufficient qualifying earnings to be considered eligible for state unemployment, including workers who are newly hired.”
Read the Senators’ full letter HERE.