Alabama announces support for workers impacted by COVID-19

Alabama announces support for workers impacted by COVID-19

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - Monday, the Alabama Department of Labor Secretary, Fitzgerald Washington, announced that Alabama employees who are unable to work due to COVID-19 will be eligible to file for unemployment benefits.

The Alabama Department of Labor is modifying existing unemployment compensation rules to allow workers to file a claim for unemployment compensation benefits who are affected in the following way by COVID-19:

  • Those who are quarantined by a medical professional or governmental agency
  • Those who are laid off or sent home without pay for an extended period by their employer due to COVID-19 concerns
  • Those who are diagnosed with COVID-19
  • Those who are caring for an immediate family member who is diagnosed with COVID-19

Alabama Department of Labor Communications Director Tara Hutchison says the way the Alabama Department of Labor is handling this is sort of like a temporary lay off.

“The benefits would be available for up to three weeks. The maximum benefit amount for the state of Alabama is $275 a week,” said Hutchinson. “After that three week period if someone is still out of work and still needs to draw unemployment assistance then those cases would be reviewed.”

Usually, a laid off worker would have to be "able and available" to work while receiving unemployment compensation, but at this time, that is being modified for those affected by COVID-19. Also, the usual waiting week to receive unemployment compensation is being waived.

“Those claims will be processed more quickly then a regular claim, a regular claim usually takes up to 21 days before you receive payment," Hutchinson said. "By treating this as a temporary lay off, those payments will come in a lot faster.”

Additionally, claimants will not have to search for other work provided they take reasonable steps to preserve their ability to come back to that job when the quarantine is lifted or the illness subsides.

People who are being paid to work from home, or those receiving paid sick or vacation leave are NOT eligible for unemployment compensation benefits, regardless if they experience any or all of the situations listed above.

"This is only for those who are not receiving any type of paid leave," said Hutchinson.

With a paid sick leave bill in the hands of federal lawmakers, the decision employers or business owners make is subject to change.

"We are waiting for guidance from congress," said Hutchinson. "There are several bills going through the system right now that would impact some of these things including mandated paid sick leave."

The Alabama Department of Labor will be opening the file for these claims on Monday, March 23.

Workers can file for benefits online at www.labor.alabama.gov or by calling 1-866-234-5382. Online filing is encouraged.

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Coronavirus and Unemployment Insurance Benefits Questions and Answers

Will workers qualify for unemployment benefits if the coronavirus (COVID-19) causes an employer to shut down operations?

Alabama unemployment benefits are available to individuals who are unemployed through no fault of their own. If an employer must shut down operations and no work is available, individuals may be eligible for unemployment benefits.

If an employer lays off employees due to the loss of production caused by the coronavirus, will the employees be eligible for unemployment insurance benefits?

Alabama unemployment benefits are available to any individual who is unemployed through no fault of their own. If an employer must lay off employees due to the loss of production caused by the coronavirus, individuals may be eligible for unemployment benefits.

If an employee receives unemployment benefits as a result of a coronavirus-related business shutdown, will the employer’s unemployment taxes increase?

At this time, no further guidance has been issued. Until such a time, normal procedures will be followed.

If an employee receives unemployment benefits as a result of a coronavirus-related business shutdown, can the benefits be charged to the mutual account?

At this time, no further guidance has been issued. Until such a time, normal procedures will be followed.

If an asymptomatic employee imposes a self-quarantine because of the coronavirus, will they be eligible for unemployment benefits?

In most cases, no. 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 met the monetary and weekly eligibility criteria.

If an employee is in mandatory quarantine because of suspicion of having the coronavirus, will they be eligible for unemployment benefits?

Yes, they will be eligible. Certain criteria and exceptions may apply, and are subject to change.

If an employee is ill because of the coronavirus and unable to work, will they be eligible for unemployment benefits?

Yes, they will be eligible. Certain criteria and exceptions may apply, and are subject to change.

Is the coronavirus considered a disaster, and can I receive Disaster Unemployment Assistance?

The president of the United States has declared the coronavirus a national disaster, but at this time there has been no Disaster Unemployment Assistance declaration.

What types of proof may be required to substantiate a COVID-19 claim?

Proof of a medical diagnosis from a health care professional for the claimant and/or the immediate family member, and/or confirmation of quarantine by the employer or applicable government entity.

What is a partial claim?

A partial claim is filed when an employee is laid off for a short period, but is expected to be rehired at the same job. For more information regarding partial claims, please visit https://www.labor.alabama.gov/uc/Partials/uc-partials.aspx#facts.

How long can I receive benefits?

Generally, up to three weeks, subject to verification.

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