Lost work because of omicron? What you need to know about unemployment benefits

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Pedestrians stand in line at the Covid-19 mobile test site at Columbus Circle in New York City on December 5, 2021.

Jeenah Moon / Bloomberg via Getty Images

Cases of covid are on the rise in some parts of the U.S., and a highly contagious version of omicron is expected to trigger another viral wave that will target winter.

In New York, some restaurants and Broadway shows were temporarily closed this week. The level of positivity in the city doubled to 7.8% in three days, from 9 to 12 Dec.

Restaurants outside of New York had to close your dooralso.

This same dynamic may soon affect a wider section of Americans. Omicron is more contagious than the delta variant and there are examples doubling about every two days.

Workers who lose their working hours or jobs may be wondering: Am I entitled to unemployment benefits?

For many, the answer is yes.

However, the U.S. unemployment system has many nuances and complex rules, which means that the situation will vary depending on the country and individual circumstances.

Some groups of workers who qualified for help during the pandemic may find that help is no longer available. Temporary federal programs that expanded the safety net for the unemployed expired on Labor Day. Sick people who miss work, or the self-employed who, for example, lose enough earnings, are unlikely to be lucky.

“Ultimately, the state labor agency will have to determine if someone is eligible,” said Michele Evermore, senior adviser on unemployment insurance at the U.S. Department of Labor.

The bottom line: workers should sign up if they think they can qualify, Evermore said. She advised workers to be careful how they communicate information about their role. (One common and costly mistake, for example: reporting no earnings for the week because the payday has not yet arrived.)

Here’s what you need to know.

Partial benefits

Unemployment benefits are available in cases beyond redundancies; they can also qualify workers who lose many hours.

According to Andrew Stettner, a senior fellow at The Century Foundation, a progressive think tank, workers typically have to lose at least half of their weekly work to qualify. So a restaurant worker who loses two of his four work shifts due to the suspension of Covid can qualify.

These “partial” unemployment benefits are part of the total amount triggered by the complete loss of a job.

The rules on partial benefits (including amount and eligibility) vary from country to country.

Eligibility rules

There are many factors that affect your eligibility for benefits. Two main factors: the history of earnings and whether you have amassed benefits in the past year.

The “unemployment benefit” begins with the receipt of state unemployment insurance. This is a 52-week cycle in which you can collect a certain amount of weekly benefits.

States determine the weekly amount based on your earnings history, usually in the last four or five full quarters of work.

Workers can generally receive up to 26 total weeks of benefits in the year of benefits; they can collect this sum in attacks and beginnings in multiple rounds of layoffs. (Quantity and duration vary greatly by country.)

Let’s say a worker in the spring and summer of 2021 raised $ 250 a week for 13 weeks. This person can probably claim $ 250 a week for another 13 weeks if he loses his job before winter.

Someone who received benefits earlier in the pandemic may find it harder to qualify in the near future. They may have exhausted their biggest 26-week allotments and may have to wait for the clock to reset to New Year’s benefits.

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Even if one year has passed, they may not have earned enough since their last resignation to be eligible for additional assistance.

“The real question will be, did they work long enough when things opened up?” said Stettner.

One exception may be “extended benefit” schemes, additional weeks of benefits available during periods of high unemployment. Extended benefits have been available since November 27 in only four states (Alaska, Connecticut, New Jersey and New Mexico). according to the to the Ministry of Labor.

In some countries, unemployed workers also have to look for full-time (rather than part-time) work in order to be entitled to benefits.

Exposure to Omicron

Some workers may have to stay home due to exposure to Covid or if they are ill – and may lose pay as a result.

Workers who need to be quarantined because they have come into close contact with a person who is positive may be eligible for benefits, Evermore said. States may consider this person to be “capable and available for work”, which is a key component of eligibility.

Perhaps on the contrary, that probably wouldn’t be the case for someone who is positive about Covid and can’t function, Evermore said.

“Unemployment insurance was never intended for paid sick leave,” Evermore said. Workers may be able to receive compensation for paid leave from an employer or through a state program, she added.

Self-employed and concert workers

This was not the case in the pandemic before. Congress has expanded the range of workers eligible for unemployment benefits through the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Program, which is part of the CARES Act, passed by lawmakers in March 2020.

The PUA program offered federal benefits to those who missed work for a number of Covid-related reasons (such as virus infection or caring for a sick individual). It also paid workers, the self-employed, independent contractors, the self-employed and others who are generally not eligible for state benefits.

This program expired on the day of work, which means that many of these groups may no longer qualify. Some state employment agencies may determine that concert workers and independent performers are eligible if they meet certain employment requirements, Evermore said.

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