Iowa Workforce Development (IWD) held a public webinar for employers relating to COVID-19 and unemployment compensation insurance at noon on Tuesday, March 17. Updates included the following:
- Amounts: Weekly benefits range from $87 - $591 based on previously paid employee wages and number of dependents.
- Timing: Benefits are available for a maximum of 26 weeks unless there are further changes to the law.
- Claimants that file will be eligible if they are out of work due to:
- Caring for a family member with COVID exposure/illness
- Loss of childcare or school closures
- Employer shut down (temporary layoffs have always qualified)
- Self-quarantine need
- Ill with COVID-19 and unable to work due to sickness or quarantine
- Work search requirement is waived for these circumstances.
- Employees will check COVID -19 on the benefit application form which will trigger this coverage.
- Employers will not be charged for benefits relating to COVID-19.
- Employers should monitor all notices of claims to monitor and make sure you are not being charged for the benefits.
- New employees who would not otherwise qualify for job service due to lack of time worked will remain eligible for payment under the COVID-19 plan. IWD will look at the prior employer to determine payment rate. It appears that if an employee has worked for the minimum in qualifying wages in the last 18 months some benefits will be available.
- They are not anticipating challenging an application for benefits on a factual basis including if an employer has work available but the employee chooses to stay home due to a school closure. This would also include things like employees not wanting to come into work due to general fear of illness. IWD specifically states “issues like that are between you and the employee.” They may make some fact determinations of this type later once IWD feels it has a better handle on all matters.
- When asked how IWD knows if the employee actually has COVID-19, IWD states “we are using the honor system.”
- Employees must exhaust all paid leave before qualifying for benefits under this plan.
- Temporary layoffs do not trigger the WARN Act (both Iowa and federal laws relating to business closures) unless the shutdown becomes long-term or permanent.
- Employee eligibility is broad, but you do have to have been employed and earned wages in the last 18 months.
- If proposed federal legislation passes and your employees become eligible for two weeks paid leave under that legislation, that leave must be exhausted first before using or continuing this IWD benefit.
- This does not require a full lay-off of employees. If you send only one employee home, that person will be eligible for these benefits.
- If employers have a plan in place to pay partial wages as part of the emergency (not accrued PTO), employees will receive partial IWD benefits. This would also be true in the event an employee who has a partial hours reduction.
- All applications should be filed online.
- Employees have to file in a state where he/she has wages, even if that isn’t the state of residence. If employees have wages in multiple states and a different state pays a higher amount, the employee will receive a notice that a higher rate is available in an alternate state.
- Students may or may not qualify depending on how much they earned in wages in prior quarters.
- When in doubt, file and IWD will try to sort it out. IWD suggests you file as quickly as possible.
Resources on these matters are available on the IWD website. The slides and webinar recording will also be available to review on the IWD site along with updated Frequently Asked Questions.
The Big Picture
Keep monitoring the situation and what benefits are available as things are guaranteed to change.
We will continue to update our Coronavirus Resources webpage with new information regularly.
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