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Biden extends unemployment insurance for employees who fear COVID risk

Biden extends unemployment insurance for employees who fear COVID risk

The Biden administration is extending the right to extend unemployment benefits for employees who feel compelled to choose between working in an unsafe environment and refusing work to avoid the risk of coronavirus infection.


U.S. Department of Labor issues guidance to state unemployment insurance agencies that increase the number of cases in which workers may be eligible for federal unemployment assistance (PUA), which is federally funded but administered by state agencies.

DOL said those who do not return to work or accept a job offer over concerns about workplace exposure are losing their unemployment benefits.

“Today’s leadership opens the door to relief for workers who are faced with difficult, if not impossible choices, between accepting a job in an unsafe workplace to receive a steady source of income, and protecting their health and those of their loved ones, “said Patricia Smith. , senior adviser to the Secretary of Labor in an announcement.

Workers who refuse unsafe work can get unemployment insurance

The new guideline extends the suitability to three categories of workers:

  • Workers receiving unemployment benefits have refused their continued regular unemployment claims after refusing to work or accepting an offer of employment in a workplace, not in accordance with the health and safety standards of the coronavirus.
  • Workers who have been dismissed or whose working hours have been reduced as a result of the pandemic.
  • School employees work without a contract or reasonable insurance for continued service that has fewer salaries and no insurance to have continued payment if schools are closed due to coronavirus.

In a data collection from the Census Bureau that took place on February 3 to 15, 2021, it was found that of the nearly 108 million people who were not working at that time, 5.1 million said they were not working because they concerned about getting or spreading the coronavirus. Another 3.2 million of those who do not work said they were sick with coronavirus symptoms and 1 million said they cared for someone with the symptoms of the virus.

Source: US Census Household Data February 3-15, 2021

The census data also shows that approximately 249 million households have lost their working income since 13 March 2020 and that almost 58 million expect to lose their income within the next few weeks.

The new coronavirus-related reasons are retrospective – they apply as if they were included from the beginning of the PUA program. However, there are some restrictions for individuals filing their first initial PUA claim.


DOL said the Biden administration will provide state systems with the funds needed to update their systems to enable retrospective payments. DOL has acknowledged that the implementation of these changes will take time and that the earliest available this extended qualification is the end of March.

Top photo: A worker sprays disinfectant at an office building. Photographer: Kevin Mazur / Getty Images

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