Biden administration updates unemployment eligibility amid pandemic


FILE – In this Dec. 18, 2020, file photo, a person passes the office of the California Employment Development Department in Sacramento, Calif. On Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2021, California State Auditor Elaine Howle released a report saying that the EDD might have overpaid millions of people since March 2020 after it stopped enforcing eligibility rules so they could process claims faster. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, File)

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The Biden administration announced Thursday that it has updated its Pandemic Unemployment Assistance language to include workers who declined to work due to pandemic safety concerns.

The Department of Labor added that these workers who are now eligible for unemployment can receive retroactive benefits.

The Pandemic Unemployment Assistance previously programs to include freelance workers, and those receiving reduced hours because of the pandemic.

The new guidance puts employees into three categories:

· Workers receiving unemployment benefits who had their continued regular unemployment benefits’ claims denied after they refused to work or accept an offer of work at a worksite not in compliance with coronavirus health and safety standards.

· Workers laid off, or who have had their work hours reduced as a direct result of the pandemic.

· School employees working without a contract or reasonable assurance of continued employment who face reduced paychecks and no assurance of continued pay when schools are closed due to coronavirus.

The Department of Labor says that workers must “self-certify” that they are unemployed or unable to work because of coronavirus-related reasons.

The new guidance is expected to take effect at the end of March due to the time needed to implement the changes.

“Our nation cannot afford to continue compounding the already-devastating effects of the ongoing pandemic-related economic crisis by leaving workers destitute and living in fear for their health and their lives,” said senior adviser to the Secretary of Labor Patricia Smith. “Today’s guidance opens the door to relief for workers who have faced difficult, if not impossible, choices between accepting employment in an unsafe workplace to receive a steady source of income, and protecting their health and that of their loved ones.”

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