Letter Stems from Denial of Unemployment Insurance to Senator Hassan’s Constituents Working Reduced Hours or Temporarily Laid Off Amid Pandemic
WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Maggie Hassan (D-NH) is calling for the Department of Labor to revise a policy that has limited the ability of workers whose hours have been reduced from receiving Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA). Senator Hassan is joined in her call by Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), and Mark Warner (D-VA).
Senator Hassan and colleagues are raising this issue after hearing from constituents who have been denied Pandemic Unemployment Assistance even though they had their hours reduced or have been temporarily laid off due to changes in how businesses are operating amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Current Department of Labor policy states that these workers are ineligible for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance if their workplaces are open, and the Senators are calling for this to change.
“We believe workers who have their hours reduced or are temporarily laid off when their employer reduces business operations due to COVID-19 are covered under PUA, and that the Department of Labor has the authority under the law to clarify its guidance to ensure these workers are eligible for PUA benefits,” wrote the Senators. “The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act established PUA to ensure that workers who lose their jobs during the pandemic and are not traditionally eligible for unemployment insurance can receive needed support during COVID-19.”
The Senators continued, “Partial closures are very common for businesses like restaurants that are operating with limited indoor dining capacity, or only offering take-out services, and have resulted in many service workers working reduced hours or being temporarily laid off even though their employer remains open. The recent guidance directs states to deny PUA eligibility to workers who have been impacted by partial closures. This is of particular concern for workers who do not have sufficient qualifying earnings to be considered eligible for state unemployment, including workers who are newly hired.”
The Senators called for a change in this policy: “We ask that the Department clarify that workers impacted by partial closures or their employer scaling back business operations are eligible for PUA, or use its authority under 2102(a)(3)(A)(ii)(I)(kk) of the CARES Act to ensure these workers are eligible. This clarification is vital so that these workers can make ends meet during the pandemic.”
Read the Senators’ full letter here.