News Detail

DOL Issues New Guidance Expanding Unemployment Insurance Eligibility to Workers Who Declined Work Due to Fear of Getting COVID-19

The Department of Labor (DOL) has issued new guidance that will allow workers to qualify for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) if they refuse to work in a job they fear puts them at risk of contracting the coronavirus. The new guidance follows an Executive Order from President Joe Biden issued last month directing DOL to clarify workers' right to "refuse employment that will jeopardize their health" and still qualify for jobless aid.

The new guidance expands eligibility to three categories of workers, two of which are relevant for SWACCA members, including: (1) 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; and (2) workers laid off, or who have had their work hours reduced as a direct result of the pandemic.

This new guidance is retroactive to the beginning of the PUA program, which was created by the CARES Act last March. DOL says that it will “take substantial work and time” for state agencies to implement the change and apply it retroactively. As a result, DOL said it expects that the expanded eligibility will be available by the end of March at the earliest.

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