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Coronavirus (COVID-19) Employment Updates by State

The majority of states and the federal government have declared a state of emergency in light of the growing concerns over the spread of COVID-19.

Employers continue to have a key role in helping to stop the spread. Employers are encouraged to check in on the latest updates from the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control.

This article addresses a summary of the current measures in various jurisdictions where Hinckley Allen has offices.

 

Connecticut

Connecticut (along with a coordinated effort with New Jersey, and New York, all of which have declared a state of emergency) has suspended gatherings of more than 50 people and any on-premises consumption of food or drinks at restaurants and bars.

Connecticut has waived the usual waiting period for unemployment claims for claims related to COVID-19 and issued an FAQ for employers and employees related to unemployment insurance, including the availability of unemployment for certain business closures related to COVID-19.

On March 16, 2020, Governor Ned Lamont announced that small businesses and nonprofit organizations in Connecticut that have been negatively impacted by the global COVID-19 outbreak are now eligible for disaster relief loans of up to $2 million from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA). Further the Department of Revenue Services has extended deadlines for filing and payments for certain state tax returns. Details are on DRS’s website.

Importantly, employers who are furloughing employees can now use the DOL’s shared work program which allows businesses to reduce working hours and have those wages supplemented by unemployment insurance. More information related to this program is available on the CTDOL website.

 


 

Massachusetts

On March 10, 2020, Governor Baker declared a state of emergency. The Commonwealth has taken the following measures to aid individuals and entities impacted by COVID-19:

  • Gatherings of more than 25 people and any on-premises consumption of food or drinks have been suspended at restaurants and bars (effective until April 6).
    • The emergency order restricting such gatherings does not apply to normal operations of transit organizations, medical facilities, retail and grocery stores, or typical office environments, government buildings, or factories.
  • Small Business Recovery Loan Fund: Massachusetts-based businesses impacted by COVID-19 with under 50 employees may qualify for loans of up to $75,000.
  • Small businesses (including agricultural cooperatives and aquaculture enterprises) and non-profits of any size in Berkshire, Bristol, Hampden, Norfolk and Worcester counties may qualify for Economic Injury Disaster Loans of up to $2 million to help meet financial obligations and operating expenses which could have been met had the disaster not occurred.

For unemployment claims, the following interim measures have been taken:

  • All requirements regarding attending seminars at the MassHire career centers have been suspended.
  • Deadlines missed by employers and claimants due to effects of COVID-19 may be excused under DUA’s good cause provision.
  • Employers whose businesses are severely impacted by COVID-19 can request extensions for filing and paying unemployment contributions.
  • “Worksearch” requirements will be interpreted to appropriately permit claimants affected by COVID-19 to collect benefits.
  • All appeal hearings will be held by telephone only.

DUA may pay unemployment benefits if a worker is quarantined due to an order by a civil authority or medical professional, or leaves employment due to reasonable risk of exposure or infection or to care for a family member. The worker need not provide medical documentation and need only be available for work when and as able.

More information relating to updates on various COVID-19 guidance and directives for the following industries: health care professionals & organizations, education, businesses & employers, state and local government, insurance, caregivers, and transportation is available here.

 


 

New Hampshire

Governor Sununu declared a state of emergency on March 13, 2020. Information on COVID-19 related items in New Hampshire is available here. Measures for adjusting unemployment availability for impacted employees are currently being debated in the New Hampshire legislature.

  • On March 16, 2020 Governor Sununu issued an executive order prohibiting gatherings of 50 or more people for social, spiritual and recreational activities and further restricted food and beverage sales to carry-out, delivery, curbside pick up and drive through only.
  • On March 17, 2020 Governor Sununu issued further orders that employees who are unable to work or who have reduced hours due to the COVID-19 pandemic will have immediate access to unemployment benefits. Anyone in the following situations will now be eligible for state unemployment: If your employer temporarily closes due to COVID-19; Individuals that need to self-quarantine or are directed to quarantine at the instruction of a health care provider, employer or government official; Individuals that need to care for a family member that has COVID-19 or is under quarantine; Individuals that need to care for a dependent because of school closures, child care facility closures or other similar types of care programs; Self-employed individuals that are temporarily unable to operate their business because of any of the above listed situations will also be eligible.

 


 

New York

In connection with efforts of Connecticut and New Jersey, New York also has suspended gatherings of more than 50 people and any on-premises consumption of food or drinks at restaurants and bars. Additionally, New York has waived the normal waiting period for unemployment claims for individuals impacted by COVID-19.

On March 17, 2020 Governor Cuomo announced a three-way agreement with the New York Legislature on a bill guaranteeing job protection and pay for New Yorkers who have been quarantined as a result of COVID-19. The program bill also includes the permanent paid sick leave policy first advanced in the Governor’s FY 2021 Executive Budget proposal.

This follows the Governor’s announcement that New York will guarantee two full weeks of paid leave for all state workers who are subject to a mandatory or precautionary order of quarantine as a result of the virus. More details about the program bill can be found on the Governor’s website.

 


 

Rhode Island

On March, 9, 2020, Governor Raimondo declared a state of emergency in light of the growing concerns over COVID-19. Supplemental emergency declarations have addressed the following:

  • March 13, 2020: Any person arriving outside of the United States must self-quarantine for at least 14 days upon arrival in Rhode Island. Information on self-quarantining is available at the Rhode Island Department of Health’s website.
  • March 16, 2020:
    • Gatherings of 25 people or more are prohibited
    • On premises consumption of food or drink is prohibited at restaurants, bars, and other establishments. Restaurants, bars, and other establishments may continue to offer food and non-alcoholic beverages for take-out and delivery.
  • March 16, 2020:
    • Public bodies have been granted certain relief from restrictions on the use of telephonic or electronic communications to conduct meetings.
    • Public records request timelines have been extended.

To help employers and employees dealing with the impact of COVID-19, Rhode Island has announced a variety of temporary measures in conjunction with the Rhode Island Department of Labor and Training:

 Employees Unable to Work While their Business Remains Open May be Eligible for Temporary Disability Insurance or Temporary Caregiver Insurance

TDI provides benefit payments for periods of unemployment caused by temporary disability or injury. TCI provides eligible claimants up to 4 weeks of caregiver benefits to care for a seriously ill child, spouse, domestic partner, parent, parent-in-law or grandparent (or to bond with a newborn child, new adopted child or new foster-care child).

For COVID-19 related claims, DLT will waive the usually required 7-day minimum amount of time that claimants must be out of work to qualify for TDI/TCI benefits.

For individuals under quarantine, DLT will waive the required medical certification, and instead permit individuals to qualify via self-attestations that they were under quarantine due to COVID-19.

Employees out of work and are not being paid may be eligible for Unemployment Insurance

Employees whose businesses close or who are directed by their employer to remain home may be eligible for unemployment insurance. Employees should indicate their claim is a result of COVID-19 and DLT will waive the usually required 7 day waiting period for unemployment claims.

Economic Injury Disaster Loans

Small businesses may qualify for Economic Injury Disaster Loans of up to $2 million to help meet financial obligations and operating expenses which could have been met had the disaster not occurred.

Applicants may apply online, receive additional disaster assistance information, and download applications at: https://disasterloan.sba.gov/ela.

Technology Assistance

For businesses, municipalities, K-12 and other entities, Microsoft is providing six months of Office 365 tools for free to enable remote collaboration, file sharing and video conferencing. They’re also offering free assistance to set up these tools. More information on the program is available here.

 


 

Federal

On the federal level, President Trump also declared a national emergency to address the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. In Congress, while the House recently passed the “Families First Coronavirus Response Act,” no legislation has been finalized.

 

More information will be provided as further developments unfold.

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