HARRISBURG, Pa. — As companies across Pennsylvania work to mitigate against the spread of coronavirus, many jobs have been impacted.
Grocery stores across the state have modified their hours. Non-essential businesses, following recommendations by local, state, and federal government agencies, are closing their doors and urging employees to work remotely, if possible.
The Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry has a list of guidance and resources on its website to aid Pennsylvania residents whose jobs have been impacted.
"Mitigation efforts related to the Coronavirus in Pennsylvania have required everyone to work within rapidly changing, complex circumstances which create a variety of unique situations and conditions for workers, businesses, employers and communities," the department said on its website. "The Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry is committed to providing workers and business communities with ongoing guidance, resources, and information."
Here are some answers from the Department's website to questions about workers compensation, unemployment benefits, and services available to those affected by the COVID-19 outbreak:
Eligibility for Unemployment Compensation
According to the Department of Labor & Industry's Office of Unemployment Compensation, if you are employed in Pennsylvania and are unable to work because of Coronavirus disease (COVID-19), you may be eligible for Unemployment or Workers' Compensation benefits.
You may be eligible if:
- Your employer temporarily closes or goes out of business because of COVID-19
- Your employer reduces your hours because of COVID-19
- You have been told not to work because your employer feels you might get or spread COVID-19
- You have been told to quarantine or self-isolate, or live/work in a county under government-recommended mitigation efforts
How to apply for compensation
Applying online is the fastest and easiest way to get started, the department says.
Important Information About Unemployment Compensation
- If you are eligible for UC, you will receive two letters and a four-digit PIN
- Your PIN will arrive in the U.S. mail – keep it in a safe, easy to remember place
- If approved, your first benefit payment should arrive within four weeks of filing for UC
- Continue filing your bi-weekly claim (every two weeks) – even while waiting for approval
- The Dept. is experiencing very large call volumes. You can email them at firstname.lastname@example.org, or via UC LiveChat.
- (NEW) The Waiting Week is suspended. Previously, claimants were not eligible for benefits during their first week of unemployment (the "waiting week"), the department said. This has been suspended; eligible claimants may receive benefits for the first week that they are unemployed
- (NEW) Work Search and Work Registration requirements are temporarily waived for all UC claimants. Claimants are not required to prove they have applied or searched for a new job to maintain their UC benefits, according to the department. Claimants are also not required to register with www.PACareerLink.pa.gov.
- At this time, benefits are not being extended beyond 26 weeks.
Important Information for Claimants in Bankruptcy
Due to COVID-19, regular mail collection to the Department of Labor & Industry may be delayed or interrupted for the next few weeks due to many commonwealth employees working from home.
As a result, if you have sent the department a bankruptcy notice, it may not be reviewed in time to avoid sending you billing notices or automatically offsetting your benefits.
To provide the Department with your bankruptcy notice in a timely fashion, please send information about your bankruptcy to the following resource account at RA-OUCB-BPC@pa.gov.
If you are able, please attach a copy of any bankruptcy paperwork to the email to expedite processing. If you are unable to attach the bankruptcy notice, please include your name, bankruptcy number, and the last four digits of your Social Security number on the email.
The Department says it will make every effort to stop inappropriate collection efforts once it receives your email. If an amount is mistakenly taken by offset, a refund will be made as soon as possible, the Department says.
Workers Compensation Benefits
According to the Department of Labor & Industry, if you believe you may have been exposed to COVID-19 in your workplace, you may be eligible for Workers' Compensation (WC) by either:
- Notifying your employer to file a typical "disease-as-injury" WC claim, which requires you to provide medical evidence that you were exposed to COVID-19 in the workplace
- Notifying your employer to file an "occupational disease" WC claim, which requires you to show that COVID-19 is occurring more in your occupation/industry than in the general population
Workers Compensation Claims:
If you have been laid off and have not received your last paycheck or compensation you are owed, payment is be required by state law, the Department of Labor & Industry says. If your regular payday has passed without payment, contact the Pennsylvania Bureau of Labor Law Compliance.
Family Medical Leave Act
If you or your employees are out with the flu or are caring for ill family members, check with the Department of Labor for information on whether such leave is covered under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).
Under the FMLA, covered employers must provide employees job-protected, unpaid leave for specified family and medical reasons, which may include the flu where complications arise. Employees on FMLA leave are entitled to the continuation of group health insurance coverage under the same terms as existed before they took FMLA leave.
Employees are eligible to take FMLA leave if they work for a covered employer and:
- have worked for their employer for at least 12 months;
- have at least 1,250 hours of service over the previous 12 months; and
- work at a location where at least 50 employees are employed by the employer within 75 miles.
See the Federal FMLA website for more information.
U.S. Small Business Association Disaster Assistance Loans for Small Businesses Impacted by Coronavirus
SBA's Economic Injury Disaster Loans offer up to $2 million in assistance for a small business. These loans can provide vital economic support to small businesses to help overcome the temporary loss of revenue they are experiencing.
For additional information, please contact the SBA disaster assistance customer service center. Call 1-800-659-2955 (TTY: 1-800-877-8339) or e-mail email@example.com.
Search for Employment
If you're looking for work, you can register on PA CareerLink and use the job search function to explore new occupations, the Dept. of Labor & Industry says. There are several other resources on the site like links to trainings, job counselors, and more.
FAQs for Employers
The Department of Community and Economic Development has a resource account for businesses to reach out to directly with questions and concerns about operations.
Email firstname.lastname@example.org with your name, business, contact information, and concern, and someone will be in contact to assist you.
Employees affected by a business closure, reduction in hours, or a medically or government directed quarantine or isolation should be encouraged to file for unemployment compensation (UC) benefits if no other compensation, such as paid leave, is available to them.
Employees should be aware that they cannot receive both UC benefits and paid leave, as it may result in an "overpayment" that requires them to return benefits.
Employer Frequently Asked Questions:
- Can my employees file for UC benefits if my business is closed (temporarily or otherwise) because of COVID-19?
- Can my employees file for UC benefits if I tell them to stay home because I think they are a risk of spreading or at risk of contracting COVID-19?
- Can my employees file a claim if they have COVID-19 and cannot come to work?
- Can my employees file for UC benefits if I reduce their hours because of COVID-19?
- Can my employees file for UC benefits if they are told to isolate or quarantine?
- Are there any programs to support employers experiencing financial difficulties or business downturn due to COVID-19? (Shared-Work?)
- If I am a small business owner, am I eligible for unemployment benefits if I need to close or temporarily shut down my business because of COVID-19?
- Will my UC tax rate increase if my employees file for benefits?