New rules for claiming Unemployment Benefits
This email was added to our Blog on 4/2/2020. If you did not get the email we sent to all of our clients please send Shane an email at Shane@sbscpagroup.com and ask Shane to please add you to our email blast list that we are using to keep our clients informed about the emergency legislation that Congress has passed.
April 1st, 2020
This is a very long email and will affect many of our clients. This email will affect anyone who is filing a claim for unemployment benefits, and please realize a lot more people can qualify for these benefits under the new laws, and the benefits are much larger than they have been in the past. Please read the email entirely before contacting The Indiana Department of Workforce Development with your questions. There is a section at the end of this email that summarizes what we think you should do if you think you are eligible for unemployment benefits after reading this email. We will provide different sources for you to get more information at the end of this email; please realize we put everything we know in this email to assist you, your friends, and your relatives. Please do NOT contact us with questions about Indiana unemployment claims because this is not something we can help you with. This new emergency legislation has given us a lot more work to do in other areas, and we need to focus on those other areas.
This is our second email about the emergency legislation:
This email discusses the emergency legislation Congress passed ordering the states to expand unemployment benefits massively. These benefits will flow to many people who were not previously eligible, and the amounts paid will in many cases exceed the amount of money workers are paid via their regular jobs.
The third email will be sent by Friday and will discuss the large amounts of loans that will be available to small businesses; in some cases, these loans will be forgiven and actually be considered a grant.
With these new laws Congress is trying to convince businesses to follow one of two paths. The first path involves encouraging businesses to lay off workers and for those workers to claim enhanced unemployment benefits. The second path is for the government to offer loans; some of which will be forgiven and function like grants, meaning some of the loans will not have to be paid back and in turn the businesses will keep their employees on payroll. Some businesses will follow a hybrid path and do some of both.
This email is about the first path and discusses the new unemployment provisions.
The Federal government is pouring hundreds of billions of dollars into the state unemployment systems. To get this money, each state must adopt various provisions that the federal government is forcing them to make to get all of this money. We fully expect Indiana to comply with all of these provisions; and we expect most, if not all, other states to do the same.
The goal of this program is to allow more workers to apply for unemployment and for them to get their first unemployment check within three weeks of filing. Further, the federal government is enhancing these benefits.
The goal of the Indiana Department of Workforce Development is to get the first unemployment check out three weeks after the initial claim for unemployment benefits. We expect the first check to go out three weeks after you submit your claim if your claim meets the standard rules that have been in place for years. If your claim involves the new rules, we feel it will take you 3-5 weeks to get your first check because they have to reprogram their software, and they are overwhelmed with phone calls and emails. Further, they have closed their offices to the public.
The Indiana Department of Workforce Development has not had time to issue their new rules, and they are begging people not to call them with questions about the new rules since they need time to write the new Indiana rules, change their software, and train their staff.
Indiana has adopted some of the new rules listed below already, and we expect them to adopt all of the new regulations by the end of this week. These rules are:
You are eligible for benefits as of the first day you are laid off.
They have to tell you if your claim is denied through the account you set up online, and you can appeal it.
Currently, you have to file a weekly voucher telling them all the income you earned that week and listing the jobs you applied for. We expect the job search requirements to be lessened or even eliminated but not the obligation to file the weekly voucher online.
Employers will not be held accountable for employees who are laid off due to COVID-19. This means all Indiana employers will see their tax rates increase 1/1/21, not just those who lay off employees. The tax increases will be spread across all businesses.
Right now, Indiana allows 26 weeks of unemployment benefits, and we expect this to be increased to 39 weeks.
Indiana will calculate your benefits per their usual rules, and once your claim is accepted, you will be able to see these amounts in your online account.
If you qualify for Indiana unemployment benefits under the new expanded rules, you will be paid the Indiana amount and another $600 per week provided by the federal government. The additional $600 payment is for a maximum of four months. Indiana may send one payment per week or two payments per week; they have not decided yet.
Any worker who has been diagnosed with COVID-19 will qualify if they cannot work.
If you have to care for a family member or a member of your household that has been diagnosed with COVID-19, you also qualify for unemployment.
If you are providing care for a child or other person in your household that you have primary caregiving responsibility for and that individual is unable to attend school or attend another caregiving facility that is closed due to COVID-19 and this causes you to be unable to work you qualify for unemployment.
You are unable to reach work due to a COVID-19 quarantine.
You are unable to work because a health care provider has advised you to self-quarantine due to COVID-19.
Any worker who was furloughed by their employer due to COVID-19 will now qualify regardless of wage history.
Any worker that was laid off due to COVID-19 will also be eligible regardless of their work history.
A worker who was scheduled to commence work and now does not have a job due to COVID-19 or is unable to get to work due to COVID-19 qualifies.
The individual has become the primary breadwinner or significant support for a household because the head of the household has died as a direct result of COVID-19.
The worker has to quit their job as a direct result of COVID-19.
Freelancers, independent contractors, gig workers, and the self-employed, in many cases, can now file for unemployment benefits if they were laid off due to COVID-19. This is not well defined, and the rules are not clear on this. The Indiana Department of Workforce Development will issue guidelines on this in the next 7-10 days.
Remember you do not qualify for unemployment if:
You can telework with pay, OR you are receiving sick pay, or other paid leave benefits.
Note that you may qualify for partial benefits if your employer reduces your hours to less than your regular full-time workweek.
According to the FAQs posted on the Indiana Department of Workforce Development (DWD) website, “Indiana Unemployment benefits are available to any individual who is unemployed through no fault of his/her 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 they meet the monetary criteria and the weekly eligibility criteria. Employees must stay in contact with their employer and be available to work when called back.”
Your application will be a regular application under the standard rules and accepted quicker as long as:
You were laid off for lack of work or due to COVID-19 AND In the last year and a half, you earned $7,000 or more in W-2 wages (This is not the exact rules but gets you in the ballpark).
How do you apply:
You apply online through the DWD website, the required visit to a WorkOne office has been waived. Their website is busy, and their phone lines are just as busy.
When will you get benefits:
DWD says you will get your first payment within three weeks as long as your employer does not fight the claim. You must file a voucher every week listing all income and your job search efforts if still required by DWD once they implement the new rules.
It is clear that the intent of this legislation is for the federal government to provide hundreds of billions of dollars to state governments. Those state governments will then change their rules and interpret the new federal laws as best they can.
Our advice is that you do the following and please realize we do not currently know more than is in this email:
If you have questions, please do one of the next or all of the following:
Email DWD at AskUIContactCenter@DWD.com
Call DWD at 1-800-891-6499
If you contact DWD, you will need to be patient because they are overwhelmed.
Call Congressman Jim Banks’ Office at 260-702-4750, they claim to have people who are experts on the new legislation, and this might be your best bet the next couple of days.
DWD has a great website, and you can find most of your answers there. They have a COVID-19 section that was last updated on March 26th, 2020. You should check their website for updates.
If you think you qualify for unemployment, you should go to the Indiana Department of Workforce Development website and file a claim immediately. The sooner you get the process started, the sooner you will get your first check. https://www.in.gov/dwd/2362.htm Filing a claim takes many people an hour or more and needs to be done from a computer or tablet. Sometimes it can be done from a powerful smartphone; however, many people are having problems using a smartphone. If you do not have a computer or tablet, you need to get a friend or family member to help you; most public buildings are closed, as are most government offices.
Once you file your claim, watch your email closely and log into your new online account frequently to monitor the status. Remember, if your request is denied, you should call them to discuss, and you should appeal it. Congressman Jim Banks’ office can help you with this.
Every week you need to log into your online account and file a weekly voucher telling them your earnings, job status, etc. This is important and must be done.
These are tough times, and we are trying to give our clients as much information as we can. If you have further questions, please reach out to DWD or the office of Congressman Jim Banks. We are overwhelmed with work due to all of this new legislation, and we honestly have put everything we know about this topic in this email!
SBS CPA Group
Mike Sylvester, CPA