Changes to state unemployment laws during COVID-19 crisis

Coronavirus

MOBILE, Ala. (WKRG) – Many News 5 viewers are reaching out to us about issues with filing their unemployment claims. Most are saying phone lines are too busy to handle the call volume. Several viewers say they’ve had better luck filing their claims online.

“I haven’t been able to work, this is my second week not being able to work. I begged my boss please put me where you can, I’ll work wherever,” said Ashleigh McLaughlin, who recently lost her job during the coronavirus outbreak. She’s depending on a steady income for bills and to care for her 5-month-old son.

“Trying to keep a roof over our head, but these are things beyond our control right now so we just have to do the best we can,” she said.

The Alabama Department of Labor reports nearly 17,000 claims filed within a 2-day period.

“I worked probably 20 hours just last week along responding to client calls,” said Scott Hetrick, an attorney working for Adams & Reese, LLP. Hetells says he works with employers, helping them navigate through the difficult decisions during times like these.

“How do we give notice to employees, how do we give notice to various government entities who are entitled to notice, and how do we coordinate with the various state unemployment offices,” he said.

New changes to unemployment laws have been adopted during the COVID-19 crisis. While there are many to list, Hetrick says employers can now file partial claims on behalf of the employee. He says that could be a benefit to the employee who has been laid off temporarily.

“It’s my understanding that if the employers go through that process, employees should be getting their checks a lot earlier than normal, said Hettick. “And the benefit to the employer from what I understand is they won’t get their experience rating charged.”

The following changes were sent by Adams & Reese, LLP to News 5. You can also visit their website here to learn more.

ALABAMA

  • Employers experiencing coronavirus-related business shutdowns are encouraged to file partial unemployment-benefit claims on their employees’ behalf (i.e., claims for employees who are laid-off for a short period but who employers expect to rehire for the same job)
    • Charges for unemployment benefits resulting from shutdowns will be waived for employers who file partial claims on their employees’ behalf
    • Employers’ experience ratings will notbe affected by coronavirus-related claims
    • Employers that currently use the CPUB application, have greater than 5 employees, or have routine layoffs can file partial claims.
  • Employers who do not file partial claims are encouraged to waive their right to respond to any Request for Separation information (BEN 241)
    • BEN 241s will still be mailed to employers; however, employers will notneed to respond to the BEN 241s if they notify the Department of Labor in writing that they waive this right
    • Employers can notify the agency by emailing Ben241waiver@labor.alabama.gov or by faxing 334-309-9098
    • Waivers should be on company letterhead and include the employers’ state unemployment insurance account numbers
  • No guidance has been issued about whether unemployment benefits resulting from coronavirus-related shutdowns can be charged to the mutual account

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*Maps provided by Alabama, Florida, and Mississippi Departments of Public Health

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