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Employment Holdups--What's Going On

April 27, 2020--UPDATE: In an interview with the United States Labor Department Division Chief, Legislation of the Office of Unemployment Insurance Michelle Beebe said that her office is working closing with and monitoring the states efforts to handle the load of applications to ensure accurate processing. She also recommended for people that have been laid off due to COVID-19  to apply online multiple times. Once approved you should receive a Guide to Unemployment either electronically or by mail. Even if you don't receive an approval confirmation, you should file by the following Sunday of applying and continue to do so following the guidelines provided. 

The programs listed in the article below cover everything from traditional unemployment candidates to contract workers and the self-employed. 
It is important to note that reporting requirements are still being enforced.




Employees that have been laid off or unable to work because of the COVID-19-related mass shutdown of businesses in McDowell have had difficulties filing for unemployment benefits by phone or through the website.

The North Carolina Department of Commerce Employment Security site acknowledges the surge of applicants and high call volume that have created problems for those out of work. They do have an FAQ page where employers can get answers to the most common questions asked. In that section, the Department's response to the difficulties of applicants reads; 

"The Division of Employment Security is taking immediate actions to respond to the huge surge of unemployment claims that have been filed as a result of COVID-19. The division is quickly adding staff, equipment, and IT infrastructure to help individuals and employers file and respond to unemployment claims. DES knows how important it is to continue processing claims and issuing payments as quickly and efficiently as possible.
 

We are aware of issues people are having accessing their online accounts and long wait times to speak to someone at the Customer Call Center. DES will ensure claimants do not miss out on any weeks of eligibility due to high call volume. We will begin the claim with the week when they initially attempted to file. If you are experiencing issues with the password or PIN for your account, please email NCDESpasswordhelp@nccommerce.com for assistance."

The North Carolina unemployment office received more than 19,000 applications in one day (April 14, 2020) and is keeping track of the number in the following chart. 

Unemployment Insurance Claims from the North Carolina Department of Commerce Employment Security
ALL INITIAL CLAIMS    COVID-19 RELATED CLAIMS ONE-DAY ALL INITIAL CLAIMS
March 16-April 14, 2020 March 16-April 14, 2020 April 14, 2020
596,03 518,939 19,075


The U.S. Department of Labor has passed down its guidelines to each state on how to administer the unemployment programs outlined under the CARES Act. Julie Balster of the USDOL Employment and Training division confirmed the complexity of the benefit programs. "Some states are having difficulty implementing the benefit programs because of outdated technologies and staffing issues," she said. She explained that there are three aspects of the expansion of unemployment compensation under the CARES Act that will be relevant to most private-sector employees:  (1)Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (“PUC”) found in Section 2104 of the Act; (2) Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (“PUA”) found in Section 2102 of the Act; and (3) Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (“PEUC”) found in Section 2107 of the Act.

  • FPUC: a flat $600.00, funded by the federal government, and is paid in addition to the normal State unemployment insurance payment.  The only criterion for eligibility is that the individual must otherwise meet the State’s requirements for receiving unemployment insurance benefits.  The program runs until July 31, 2020. DES is currently testing its system for this program and anticipates making the first payments by April 17, 2020.
  • PUA:  is available for those who do not otherwise qualify for state unemployment insurance benefits, and who are out of work as a direct result of COVID-19.  The weekly payment is equal to the benefit provided for under the Stafford Act Disaster Unemployment Assistance program (which, in general terms, is a function of the State benefit) plus $600.00.  The program runs until December 31, 2020, and is retroactive to January 27, 2020.  Benefits are capped at 39 weeks. Each state has requirements for the SADUA. This will provide benefits to eligible self-employed workers and independent contractors. DES anticipates the system will be ready to accept claims for this assistance around April 25, 2020.
  • PEUC: is a continuation of state unemployment insurance benefits for 13-weeks after the state benefits end.  To be eligible, individuals must have exhausted their state benefits and actively be looking for work.  Those out of work because of COVID-19 that are expected to be back at the same job need to notate that under these "weekly job search" reports. PEUC benefits are equal to: “(i) the amount of regular compensation  . . .  payable to such individual during such individual’s benefit year under the state law for a week of total unemployment; and (ii) the amount of Federal Pandemic Unemployment Insurance Compensation under section 2104 [$600.00].” A definitive timeline for completing system updates for this program is not yet available.
For those workers having trouble getting through or for those initially denied benefits, Balster advises everyone to: 
  1. Document your attempts to apply include date, method (phone and/or online).
  2. Apply at different times of the day and multiple times online and over the phone. 
  3. If you were initially denied, she advises filing an appeal. Although you may not be eligible for the standard UI, you should be referred to the others to see if you qualify.
  4. Self-employed, independent contractors, and sole proprietors are eligible for PUA. 


We will update this article as we learn more information on the issue. 

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