Wisconsin released an emergency order late last night. The order does quite a lot.
- Availability for work exists even when suspected of being sick or in quarantine.
- Suspected of being sick or in quarantine constitutes good cause for missing an eligibility review (a typo in the order mistakenly refers to section 2 when it should state section 1).
- Absences from work do not legally exist while a public health emergency is declared if the absences are connected to quarantine.
- There are no job search requirements during the public health emergency, retroactive to March 12th (the date a public health emergency was declared).
There is nothing yet about those losing work because they are caring for ill family members or who cannot work because kids are no longer in school or childcare.
Note: There are statutory exceptions already which allow benefits for these circumstances, but the Department has been extremely tough in applying these exceptions. It is important for the Department to indicate it will acknowledge and apply these provisions of unemployment law to allow unemployment benefits in light of what this pandemic is doing and the public health emergency it is creating.
It also appears that there is a loophole in how the Department will be applying this emergency order. The order only mentions those who are suspected of being ill or who are in quarantine for perceived or possible symptoms. If a person is actually ill, it appears that unemployment benefits will be denied because the person is not able to work in light of his or her actual illness. So, do not get sick during this public health emergency if you want to receive unemployment benefits.
In any case, the emergency order is a good start. These changes apply for the duration of the public health emergency.
Note: the waiting week for unemployment benefits remains in place until legislators convene and pass a new law temporarily (or permanently) removing the waiting week. Gov. Evers has requested that the waiting week be temporarily lifted.
As far as the Department’s other eligibility requirements, they all remain in place. The Department’s corona virus FAQ has been updated with additional information, for instance:
All Re-Employment Services sessions scheduled after Friday, March 20, 2020 will be conducted over the phone as “tele-sessions.” What participants should know:
- After registering on JCW and creating a resume, individuals may be asked to view an online orientation and take an assessment
- At the end of the assessment, participants will be informed if they must participate in the Re-Employment Services program
- Participants will asked to sign up for a three-hour window for the “tele-session”
- The participant will be called at some point during the three-hour window they have selected
- A presentation will be emailed to the participant prior to the phone call for reference
- The participant must be available and answer the phone when called by the Re-Employment Services facilitator
- The facilitator will call twice
- Failure to answer the phone after the two attempts could result in a loss of UI benefits
- The incoming call may be from an “unknown” or “blocked” caller
It is up the to the participant to ensure their contact information is correct. Contact information can be reviewed on JobCenterofWisconsin.com under “My Account” on the top right of the screen.
As indicated here, creating a resume on JobCenterofWisconsin.com remains a requirement. For those in their homes with only a smart phone for Internet access, good luck on creating that resume and meeting these requirements.
Update (20 Mar. 2020): Here is the Department’s initial internal guidance about how to apply the emergency order:
- Work Search — The work search is satisfied during the COVID-19 emergency beginning last week, the week ending 03/14/2020.
- Work Registration (done on JCW) — If notified of requirement, claimants must register as required. Unless good cause for failing to register, benefits will be denied.
- Re-employment Services — If selected, claimants will be scheduled to participate by telephone. Unless good cause for failing to participate is determined, benefits will be denied.
- Able and Available — Federal requirements require the claimant to be able and available for suitable work. However, if claimant is prevented from returning to work by the employer due to perceived symptoms of COVID-19 or is quarantined AND either of the of the following apply the claimant may be able and available for work:
- Employer instructs to return and claimant intends to return OR
- Would be able and available for work with another employer except for those same reasons.
Quarantine must be by a medical professional or Government direction or guidance.
- Work Available — If the claimant is prevented by the employer from returning to working due to perceived COVID-19 symptoms or quarantined, there is no work actually available.