In earlier LR What You Need to Know Now postings here and here, we discussed the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program under the federal CARES Act. PUA provides unemployment benefits to gig workers, independent contractors, self-employed individuals and workers who have run out of regular unemployment benefits, if they can’t work because of COVID-19 related reasons listed here.
On April 27, 2020, the U.S. Department of Labor clarified eligibility for PUA benefits in certain situations:
- Fear of exposure to the COVID-19 virus does not qualify a worker for PUA benefits.
- If a worker declines their employer’s offer of telework, they generally can’t receive benefits. However, if there is domestic violence in their home, the worker may be eligible for PUA benefits.
- A worker who refuses an offer to return to work, or refuses to return to work when their workplace reopens, because they’d rather receive unemployment benefits, or for any other reason that is not a listed COVID-19 related reason, is not qualified for benefits.
- A full-time student, who works part-time and is unemployed, partially unemployed, or unable to work because of one of the COVID-19 related reasons, may be eligible for benefits.
- A primary-caregiver for a child whose school is closed due to COVID-19 reasons may be eligible for benefits through the date school would otherwise end. However, if the facility the worker usually relies on for summer child care is closed as a direct result of COVID-19, the worker may continue to qualify for benefits.
- A worker who is on an approved unpaid medical leave based on one of the listed COVID-19 related reasons, may be eligible.
- A worker may qualify for benefits if they are unable to reach their place of employment due to a state or local stay-at-home, shelter-in-place, or other order that requires an individual to stay home in quarantine to reduce the spread of COVID-19.
- A worker who is advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine due to concerns related to COVID-19, may be eligible for PUA. They will be required to provide medical documentation when they apply for benefits.
- If the individual does not satisfy one of the COVID-19 related reasons and is not able to work or available for work for any other reason, they are not eligible for PUA benefits.
- As with regular unemployment benefits, a worker must be available and looking for work in order to receive PUA benefits (unless they can’t work due to a listed COVID-19 reason). However, as permitted by the federal government, Connecticut has temporarily suspended the search for work requirement.