With much of the state loosening restrictions on businesses this week, thousands of people laid off in recent weeks amid the coronavirus outbreak could soon be recalled to work.
If you’re one of those people and you’re also receiving unemployment benefits, here’s what you need to know.Unless you meet exceptions, you likely have to answer the call
In a news release Friday, the state labor department made clear that if you’ve been laid off because of the coronavirus outbreak and you refuse to return to work when called, you will lose all benefits unless you meet certain exceptions, such as:
— You have the virus or you have symptoms of it and are seeking a medical diagnosis;
— You have recovered from the virus but it caused medical complications that make you unable to fulfill your job duties
— A member of your household has the virus;
— You are caring for a family member or someone else in your household who has been diagnosed with the virus;
— You have been advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine due to concerns about the virus;
— You are the primary caregiver for someone in your household who can't go to school or another facility due to the virus and that means you can't work;
— You don’t have transportation to work because of the outbreak.
Anna Hui, the director of Missouri’s Department of Labor and Industrial Relations, has said repeatedly that “general fear” of the coronavirus does not count as an exception.
Generally, all of this is because the law requires workers receiving benefits to have lost their jobs due to no fault of their own or have quit for “good cause,” which generally means you had no choice but to leave.
The latter rationale could potentially cover someone who quit because they were put in a work environment that is clearly unsafe, but it would be less likely to cover someone in a work environment where reasonable precautions are taken.You might still get benefits working part time
Going back to work doesn’t necessarily mean an end to benefits.
You should continue to report your weekly wages to the state once you're back on the job, and if you’re working part time and making less than a certain amount before taxes, you’ll be eligible for partial benefits from the state and the $600 stipend authorized by Congress.
"For any week in which they continue to receive partial unemployment benefit payments, even as little as $1 in partial unemployment benefit payments, they are eligible to also receive the $600 federal supplement," department spokeswoman Delores Rose wrote in an email.For employers and Paycheck Protection Program beneficiaries
If you're an employer, you should also bear a few things in mind.
First, the state has created a portal for you to report employees who refuse suitable work.
The portal is found on the state’s UInteract portal at uinteract.labor.mo.gov under “Benefits" and “Work Offer Refusal Detail,” and instructions can be found on a help button on the “Work Offer Refusal Detail” screen.
Second, if you're getting money through the federal Paycheck Protection Program to pay employees, you need to let them know about that immediately. Those employees have no choice between unemployment benefits and a paycheck from an employer, according to the state labor department.
Like everyone else, employees being paid with PPP should continue to report how much they’re making each week to the state so it can be determined whether they should get partial benefits or be taken off the rolls.
Self-employed people getting a Paycheck Protection loan are also ineligible for benefits under the temporary program Congress created in March.