Laid-off workers who were expecting additional unemployment benefits may wind up having to wait months for the money to arrive, and some may not ever be able to access the funds, according to a startling report from HuffPost:
“The new provisions are supposed to give jobless workers an extra $600 per week on top of what they would normally receive, but not before state workforce agencies can work through a cumbersome implementation process.
“The bill also expanded coverage to include categories of workers who aren’t traditionally eligible for unemployment, such as ‘gig’ workers who drive for Uber.”
Even though the conroavirus stimulus legislation specifically states that “gig” workers are eligible for the added monetary benefits, Andrew Stettner, an unemployment policy expert and senior fellow at The Century Foundation, noted that rules released by the U.S. Department of Labor over the weekend may wind up excluding many of them:
“The rules released Sunday night are criminally narrow and will greatly undermine the effectiveness of the system.”
One such person is Sabrina Hogan, an Uber driver in Georgia, who quit driving in February because she feared she would be exposed to COVID-19 by one of her passengers. Since she wasn’t unemployed as a result of being forced to stop driving due a government order, she may wind up being excluded from collecting benefits.
Also adding to the confusion is that many state labor departments simply don’t have policies in place to accommodate workers such as Hogan:
“As of Monday afternoon, the Georgia Department of Labor’s website said that independent contractors and gig workers, who will be newly eligible for benefits, should not apply yet and that the state would provide new instructions before April 10.”
And then there’s the matter of proving eligibility by showing the results of a coronavirus test, which could also delay payments being issued to someone who files under the new statutes:
“While the new benefits are meant to cover anyone forced to quit their job because they became sick with the coronavirus, the way the guidelines are written makes it seem like they might need to have a positive test result to qualify.
“That’s a big roadblock in the U.S., where testing has not been widely available.”
In other words, while good intentions led to the stimulus legislation, if people have to wait months to collect them, the end result is that any stimulative effect may well be delayed so long that it won’t wind providing much help.
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