Insight Center: Publications

50 State Survey - State Unemployment Responses to COVID-19

Authors: Lee E. Tankle, Jessica X.Y. Rothenberg, Leigh H. McMonigle, Rogers Stevens, Jonathan D. Gilman and Emily E. Schifter

50 State Survey - State Unemployment Responses to COVID-19

The COVID-19 coronavirus has already had a tremendous impact on the American economy. Unfortunately, many businesses have been forced to either reduce employee hours or furlough, lay off or terminate employees due to government orders to cease non-essential business operations or a dramatic decline in business. We have published a number of articles on federal legislation designed to help employers and employees, and will continue to report on new legislation as it passes.

Unemployment compensation laws vary from state to state. To be eligible, most states require that unemployed individuals be (a) unemployed through no fault of their own; (b) able and available for work; and (c) actively seeking work. Furthermore, many states require employees to meet minimum earnings thresholds in their prior employment and wait one week between losing a job and receiving benefits. Many states, following federal guidance providing significant flexibility for states to amend their laws to provide unemployment compensation benefits in multiple scenarios related to COVID-19, have now taken action to assist employers in supporting their employees. Other states have taken no action, and existing unemployment compensation laws still apply.

We have compiled this 50 state survey to provide employers with links and basic information about what each state (and Washington, D.C.) is doing to address unemployment compensation for employees who are out of work because they have COVID-19 or have been exposed to COVID-19; are unable to work because they are caring for a family member who is ill or quarantined due to COVID-19; are unable to work because they are caring for a child whose school has closed; or whose hours have been reduced or whose employer’s operations have shut down due to COVID-19.

For example, many states have waived the typical rules for collecting unemployment compensation benefits, including the rule that an employee cannot collect benefits for the first week of unemployment and requirements involving in-person interaction, such as being able and available for work and engaging in a job search during unemployment.

In addition to unemployment compensation benefits, active employees also may be eligible for emergency family and medical leave or emergency paid leave as provided for in the recently passed Families First Coronavirus Response Act. Some jurisdictions, including New York, have adopted their own COVID-19 sick leave laws. Employees  also may be entitled to employer-provided earned sick leave if required by state law or available under employer policies. And in certain states, employees may be eligible for state-administered family and temporary disability leave benefits.

The information compiled in this PDF was gathered between March 18 and March 23, 2020. State unemployment compensation authorities are frequently issuing new guidance regarding their response to the COVID-19 pandemic. While we will make every effort to update this resource, we encourage you to consult state unemployment compensation authority websites and/or any member of the Pepper Hamilton or Troutman Sanders Labor and Employment Practice Groups with questions specific to your business.

The material in this publication was created as of the date set forth above and is based on laws, court decisions, administrative rulings and congressional materials that existed at that time, and should not be construed as legal advice or legal opinions on specific facts. The information in this publication is not intended to create, and the transmission and receipt of it does not constitute, a lawyer-client relationship.

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