Ever since Sec. Frostman issued his June 9th letter admitting that the denial of PUA benefits to the disabled did not follow the CARES Act and was also probably discriminatory, folks have been waiting for an actual change in Department policy on this issue.
Folks are waiting because Sec. Frostman did not actually change anything with this letter. Rather, he asked Sec. Scalia for the US Dep’t of Labor to OK this change in DWD policy.
Within a week of that letter, I was already hearing from my sources that the US Department of Labor would support this change soon. But, nothing happened.
And, still nothing happened.
Last week, some legislators began informing their disabled constituents that action by Sec. Scalia was imminent that same week. But, nothing happened.
Then, this week, on Tuesday evening, the Dep’t of Labor issued an Unemployment Insurance Program Letter (“UIPL”) No. 16-20, Change 2 (21 July 2020) with additional guidance on PUA benefits.
Unfortunately, this additional guidance did NOT include anything specific for those receiving SSDI benefits.
Ironically, this new guidance did indicate how corporate shareholders who are excluded from receiving regular unemployment are then eligible for PUA benefits.
Question: My state generally finds that a corporate shareholder is not “unemployed” because he or she continues to act on behalf of the company. Is a corporate shareholder eligible for PUA?
Answer: It depends. If the individual is a corporate shareholder and providing services for the corporation, the individual may be eligible for regular UC, depending on state law. If the individual performed services for the corporation and received compensation and is not eligible for regular UC, then he or she may be eligible for PUA, provided the individual is unemployed, partially unemployed, or unable or unavailable to work due to one or more of the COVID-19 related reasons listed in Section 2102(a)(3)(A)(ii)(I) of the CARES Act.
Those who have been following this issue with the disabled will quickly see that this reasoning for finding corporate shareholders eligible for PUA benefits is exactly the same reasoning that should apply to SSDI recipients who are excluded from receiving regular unemployment benefits under state law.
So, corporate shareholders who have lost work because of the pandemic can start receiving PUA benefits. The disabled? Still waiting.
As of yesterday (and after this examination of the issue), the Department updated its PUA FAQ to the following:
So, now the Department is making the wait official.
The problem with all of this waiting is that the answer has been obvious from the start, but the Department has been in denial.
Moreover, the US Dep’t of Labor knows the right answer already as well. Do not take my word for it either. This presentation makes absolutely clear that:
Section 188 of WIA and section 188 of WIOA prohibit discrimination based on disability in programs operated, and activities provided by, recipients of WIA and WIOA Title I financial assistance, or by one-stop partners.
WIA/WIOA nondiscrimination regulations prohibit these covered entities (either directly or through contractual, licensing, or other arrangements) from using standards, procedures, criteria or administrative methods that have the purpose or effect of subjecting qualified individuals with disabilities to discrimination on the basis of disability.
See presentation at 12.
SSDI eligibility is a standard enshrined in state law in Wisconsin and North Carolina that subjects these workers with disabilities to discrimination by preventing them from receiving the unemployment benefits due them but for their disability. There is no way around this conclusion: it is in the states’ statutes.
But, for some, unknown reason, this obvious conclusion cannot be acted on. And, so the disabled continue to wait and wait and wait.
The disabled have now been waiting since March of this year. In little more than a week, five months will have lapsed and August will be here. And, too many of the disabled will be facing evictions and continued lack of work. Many are no doubt wishing they had left Wisconsin or North Carolina a long time ago, as they would not be facing this unconscionable waiting anywhere else.