Monthly Archives

March 2020

COVID-19 & West Virginia Work Force Claims

West Virginia Work Force advised that employers may need to complete an “Initial Claims/Low Earnings Report” for associates depending on associate’s current work situations.

If an associate is full-time and experiences reduced hours, the employer does need to complete the form and provide it to the associate. However, if the associate is full-time and completely laid off, the employer does not need to complete this form. If the associate is a part-time associate, the employer does not need to complete this form – no matter the circumstance of hours.

Please review the attached example of an “Initial Claims/Low Earnings Report.”

Earnings Report Example

Our office will monitor COVID-19 updates closely and will send out additional announcements as we become aware of any these updates. You can also review these updates on our website at https://thomas-and-company.com/covid-19/ too.

 

Please reach out to your representative with any questions.

Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act (HR 748) – Employee Retention Tax Credit

On March 27, 2020 Congress overwhelmingly passed a $2 trillion emergency spending bill to assist those affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, which President Donald Trump quickly signed into law.

As part of the CARES Act, the Employee Retention Tax Credit, was included to assist employers struggling with the COVID-19 effects.  This credit provides for an employer federal tax credit against the Social Security portion of payroll tax paid by the employer.  This credit is available to employers who carried on a trade or business during 2020 and whose operations were fully or partially suspended due to a COVID-19 related shut-down or whose gross receipts declines by more than fifty percent compared to the same quarter in the previous year.  Tax-exempt organizations are eligible for the credit, but governmental entities and companies in receipt of small business interruption loans under the CARES Act are not eligible.  The act applies to wages paid from March 13, 2020 through December 31, 2020.

The tax credit is equal to fifty percent of the first $10,000 in qualified wages paid to each employee, up to a maximum tax credit of $5,000 per employee.  For employers with one hundred or less full-time employees, all employee wages qualify for the credit.  For employers who have greater than one hundred full-time employees, qualified wages are wages paid to employees when they are not providing services.  Qualified wages do not include sick leave wages or family leave wages paid pursuant to the Families First Coronavirus Response Act.   If the employer pays employee benefits that are greater than the amount the employer pays in the Social Security portion of payroll tax, the IRS will send the employer a check for the excess.  Since the payroll tax credit is quarterly, the employer will have to forward the benefits to employees and then be reimbursed or employers can elect not to apply the new provision.

Our office will monitor COVID-19 updates closely and will send out additional announcements as we become aware of these updates.  Please visit our website at https://thomas-and-company.com/covid-19/ for additional updates.

COVID-19 & State Agency Call Volume

Many state agencies across the nation are experiencing a high volume of unemployment claims as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. This surge in claims means that state agencies are also experiencing an overwhelming amount of calls to their phone systems too. State agencies advised that congested phone lines can prevent their claim specialists from calling out to resolve issues with individual claims. When a state agency notifies an associate that there is an issue with their claim, the associate needs to wait for an agency claims specialist to call them.

Associates should file for benefits online and visit their state’s website if they have any questions. Most state agencies posted many helpful resources for associates filing claims online on their websites – such as online tutorials, FAQs, etcetera. For a complete list of claimant resources, please visit our COVID-19 website at https://thomas-and-company.com/covid-19/.

Additionally, federal lawmakers agreed to a significant expansion of the nation’s unemployment insurance program with the CARES Act. However, state agencies stated that it will take time to implement any CARES Act programs at the state level. In the meantime, associates should apply for benefits, even if they are not sure they qualify.

Our office will monitor COVID-19 updates closely and will send out additional announcements as we become aware of any these updates. You can also review these updates on our website too.

Please reach out to your representative with any questions.

Iowa Workforce Development & Updates to Leave Policy for Employees Impacted by COVID-19

In light of the CARES Act, the Iowa Workforce Development (IWD) implemented updates to its leave policy for filing unemployment insurance benefits. Effective immediately, employees who are or will be laid off, or are unable to work for reasons related to COVID-19, will no longer be required to use all paid leave prior to being eligible for benefits. This change is not retroactive and claims will not be backdated prior to the week of March 29, 2020 for any new or existing claims.

The state’s policy typically required claimants to use all available paid leave prior to filing for benefits and was necessary to help sustain the Iowa Unemployment Trust Fund, which is funded entirely by employers doing business in Iowa and is the source of all benefit payments to claimants.  The CARES Act provided a significant source of additional funding for claimants and this policy change reflects the evolving situation of the COVID-19 pandemic. The CARES Act benefit programs will expand the group of individuals eligible for benefits to include the self-employed, independent contractors, nonprofit employees, gig economy workers, as well as workers who have exhausted their benefits. The IWD will continue to share more information as it is received from the Department of Labor and will post updates on their website  at https://www.IowaWorkforceDevelopment.gov.

Our office will monitor COVID-19 updates closely and will send out additional announcements as we become aware of any these updates. You can also review these updates on our website at https://thomas-and-company.com/covid-19/ too.

Please reach out to your representative with any questions.

What is the Coronavirus Aid, Relief & Economic Security Act?

Downloadable PDF: CARES ACT

THOMAS & COMPANY’S GUIDE TO HR748


WHAT IS THE CARES ACT?

The President signed the CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, & Economic Security ) Act on March 27, 2020. This bill provides support to employees through an economic relief package, which includes a significant investment of $2 trillion, to expand unemployment  benefits.

This bill is completely funded by the federal government. Also, this bill provides assistance to employees who may not typically be eligible for benefits such as those who have exhausted regular/extended benefits or those who are self-employed or do not have sufficient work history. Benefits will run from January 27, 2020 through December 31, 2020 but employees may not exceed 39 weeks. Employees in all US states and territories are eligible for these benefits. Please review this bulletin for more detailed information on this new bill.

HELPS THOSE NOT ELIGIBLE FOR REGULAR BENEFITS.

  • Creates a new pandemic unemployment assistance program to help those not traditionally eligible for benefits such as self-employed, independent contractors, and those who are unable to work as a result of COVID-19.
  • Pays 50% of the unemployment insurance costs incurred by state, local, and tribal governments, and non-profit organizations (not part of the unemployment insurance system).

PROVIDES AN ADDITIONAL PAYMENT TO EACH RECIPIENT

  • Pays an additional $600 per week to benefit recipients for 3 months.

SUPPORTS STATES WHO PAY INDIVIDUALS QUICKLY

  • Provides funding for the first week of benefits for states to waive the traditional week before
    benefits begin.

ALLOWS FOR ADDITIONAL WEEKS OF BENEFITS WHEN NEEDED

  • Provides an additional 13 weeks of benefits to help those who remain unemployed after weeks
    of benefits are no longer available.

ASSISTS STATES TO MEET CRITICAL STAFFING NEEDS

  • Provides states with temporary, limited flexibility to hire temporary staff, or re-hire former
    staff, to quickly process unemployment claims.

HELPS STATES MAINTAIN & ESTABLISH PROGRAMS TO PREVENT LAYOFFS IN A DOWN-TURN

  • Provides funding to states to help them maintain short-time compensation programs to prevent layoffs, as well as expand these programs in the future (i.e. Shared Work programs).

The bill and its funding, plus the $500 million in administrative funds Congress provided to state agencies in the first stimulus package, will make a tremendous difference to help American employees during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, please remember that these provisions are temporary and are only valid through 2020.

Our office will be monitoring COVID-19 updates closely and will sending out additional announcements on our website as we become aware of new developments: https://thomas-and-company.com/covid-19/.

Please reach out to your representative with any questions.

COVID-19 & Indiana Unemployment Tax Filing & Payment Extension

The Indiana Department of Workforce Development has provided a 30-day extension for quarterly state unemployment tax filings and/or payments.

The Department announced that the deadline for employers to submit their first quarter 2020 unemployment tax returns and payments has been moved from April 30th to May 31st as a direct result of the COVID-19 crisis.

More information is available on the IN DWD’s website here.

Our office will be monitoring these situations closely and will send out additional announcements or make postings on our website (https://thomas-and-company.com/covid-19/) as we become aware of new developments.

COVID-19 & Missouri Unemployment Tax Payment Extension

Missouri’s deadline for submitting first-quarter unemployment tax payment will be extended, the Missouri Department of Labor & Industrial Relations announced today.

Unemployment tax and wage reports will remain due on April 30, 2020 as normal, but the Department is allowing for an extension to submit the tax payment until June 1, 2020.

The Department stated that the deadline for unemployment tax payments was moved to June 1st  to assist employers during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Our office will be monitoring these situations closely and will send out additional announcements or make postings on our website (https://thomas-and-company.com/covid-19/) as we become aware of new developments.

COVID-19 & Updates in Idaho, Michigan, Minnesota, and Missouri

Idaho Department of Labor

The Idaho Department of Labor stated that COVID-19 impacted employees filed 13,341 new claims for benefits during the week of March 15-21, 2020. This number is up 12,310 for a 1,200 percent increase over the previous week. The state advised that their priority is to get benefits to those impacted, and eligible, as quickly as possible, as well as to help hiring employers find the staff they need as quickly as possible too.

Employees can review frequently asked questions about filing for benefits at the following website: https://www.labor.idaho.gov/dnn/Unemployment-Benfits/Questions-Answers. The state recommends that employees pull their last two years of their work history before filing online to help speed up the process.

 Michigan Department of Labor & Economic Opportunity

The fastest way for employees to file for benefits is online at https://www.Michigan.gov/UIA. The state urges employees to file during off-peak hours to avoid longer load times from 8pm to 8am local time. Employees are asked to be patient and not click more than once to reload a page.

Minnesota Department of Employment & Economic Development

While many businesses have been ordered to temporarily close to slow the spread of COVID-19, some Minnesota businesses are not only staying open – they are also hiring large numbers of workers and even offering hiring incentives. Not only can employees earn a paycheck in these industries, but these jobs can help serve Minnesotans and save lives. Overall, more than 3,650 new job openings were posted last week on the state’s online job bank. Similar to an ordinary week, jobs in the health care industry accounted for 23% of all new jobs posted, with hospitals and nursing homes having the largest demand for workers.

In addition to health care operations, many other businesses providing essential goods and services are hiring. Among these businesses are grocery stores, pharmacies, transportation and delivery services, banks, childcare, and food production. A growing number of employers – including U.S. Bank, Hormel, Target, and Amazon – have recently announced temporary bonuses or pay increases for some employees. Grocery stores are hiring for a variety of front-line positions including online personal shoppers, stockers, and cashiers. Some of the larger grocery retailers posting for positions in Minnesota are CUB Foods, Lunds & Byerlys, and Target. Many smaller local grocery stores are hiring as well. Moreover, government entities are hiring. For example, the Minnesota Department of Corrections is seeking Trainee-Corrections Officers at facilities across the state with immediate openings. The starting wage is $20.55 per hour. No corrections experience is necessary, and a 6-week paid training program is provided. Nationally, CVS Health announced plans this week to hire 50,000 workers across the country in a range of full-time, part-time and temporary positions. Meanwhile, Walmart announced plans last week to hire people for 150,000 jobs throughout the U.S.

If employees have recently been laid off, their skills may transfer more easily to another field than you might think. For instance, many health care employers are looking for people with skills common to employees in the leisure and hospitality industry – such as customer service experience, attention to detail, and the ability to multi-task – to fill a variety of health care positions. While many health care jobs require a state license, certificate, or passing a state exam – a lot of positions may require only on-site training. Among them are home care aides, resident aides, and direct support specialists – as well as positions in medical coding/billing, food service, and housekeeping. Entry-level jobs can be a stepping stone to higher-paid health care positions. Because demand is high, it’s not unusual for employers to help pay for training for many positions that require licensure or certification. There are also numerous grants and scholarships available.

Finally, if employees are looking for work now, or planning to look for work, they can CareerForce at https://www.careerforcemn.com/. Employees may also visit https://www.careerforcemn.com/virtual-interactive-services for links to online classes in resume writing, interviewing skills, and job search – as well as to other online resources. At CareerForceMN.com/locations, employees will find a phone number and an email address for a CareerForce location near them. If employees have trouble connecting, please advise them to call the CareerForce Help Desk at 651-259-7501 or email careerforce@state.mn.us for assistance.

Employees can file for unemployment benefits by visiting the state’s webpage at https://www.uimn.org and applying online. Visit https://www.mn.gov/deed for additional COVID-19 information and resources.

Missouri Department of Labor

While state office buildings may be closed to the public temporarily amid the COVID-19 outbreak, the Missouri Department of Labor and Industrial Relations’ (DOLIR) and Division of Employment Security (DES) will continue to process unemployment claims. The DES staff are performing essential functions to support Missouri employees and employers in response to this public health crisis. For the week ending March 21, 2020, the DES processed 42,207 initial claims, more than ten times the 3,976 initial claims processed during the week ending March 14, 2020. For perspective, in just one week, the DES processed nearly a quarter of the total number of claims it processed in the entirety of 2019.

Because of high call volumes, the DES encourages employees to file their claims online with UInteract at https://www.uinteract.labor.mo.gov as soon as they become unemployed. UInteract is mobile-friendly and available 24/7 to meet employee needs. Employees usually spend an average about of ten minutes to file a claim. For unemployment assistance or questions, employees can contact the DES at 1-800-320-2519 or by email at esuiclaims@labor.mo.gov. To receive assistance in a timely manner, please advise your employees to include their name, phone number, and last four digits of their social security number. Employees can also watch video tutorials of the system and these are available at https://www.labor.mo.gov/coronavirus. The DES recently expanded UInteract to handled increased workload and will monitor the system 24/7 for potential issues too.

Finally, please remember that the DES also relaxed some requirements for filing for benefits such as eliminating the need to search for work for those who file COVID-19 related claims. The DES is currently working on temporarily waiving the waiting week requirement for COVID-19 related claims. Additionally, the DES has announced that it will temporarily waive charges for COVID-19 related claims to the respective employer’s experience rating accounts. The DES continues to review guidance received from the US Department of Labor for additional changes. It is also important to remember that employers pay into the state’s unemployment insurance trust fund from which benefits are provided to eligible workers. Employees do not pay anything into the unemployment insurance trust fund. It is wholly funded by employers.

For answers to more COVID-19 related unemployment questions, visit https://www.labor.mo.gov/coronavirus.

Thomas & Company Reminder

Our office will be monitoring COVID-19 updates closely and will be sending out additional announcements on our website as we become aware of new development: https://www.thomas-and-company.com/covid-19/.

Please reach out to your representative with any questions.

COVID-19 & Minnesota Non-Profit Organizations

Many non-profits across Minnesota are facing unique challenges brought on by COVID-19. During this unprecedented time, Minnesota doubled down on their commitment to non-profit organizations at DEED. In the last year, Minnesota made several changes to their request for proposal and grant monitoring processes to strengthen their relationships with community non-profits. For instance, Minnesota streamlined processes and made improvements in their systems so that nonprofit organizations can operate with efficiency, clarity, and agility. Please review the below information on how Minnesota will further assist non-profit organizations during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Cash Advances

Reimbursement is the preferred method for grant payments but, in certain circumstances, DEED can approve cash advance payments for nonprofits. Please contact your DEED Program Coordinator to learn about the cash advance process.

Partnership and Technical Assistance

The state is experiencing a rapidly changing economic situation. When Minnesotans are ready to return to work, the state will be ready with a system to support them. The state encourages their partners whose needs have changed to reach out to them. DEED is ready and willing to work with partners facing challenges with performing proposed work on a case-by-case basis. Please reach out to your DEED Program Coordinator for technical assistance.

Also, if you think you might need an advance payment or grant extension, please contact your DEED Program Coordinator.

Our office will be monitoring COVID-19 updates closely and will be sending out additional announcements on our website as we become aware of new development: https://thomas-and-company.com/covid-19/.

Please reach out to your representative with any questions.

 

COVID-19 & UI CLAIMS FOR SCHOOL EMPLOYEES

School employees across the state of South Dakota with suspended pay due to coronavirus-related closures are now eligible to apply for Unemployment Insurance benefits (also called reemployment assistance). The Labor and Regulation (DLR) department has announced that during this time of crisis, the requirement of eligible recipients to actively seek work while receiving benefits is being waived.

It is important to note that those employees receiving paid sick leave or vacation are not in this group of eligible recipients and that claims are being reviewed on a case by case basis. Those not sure if they meet the criteria can visit https://dlr.sd.gov/ra/publications/ra_covid_19_eligibility_determinations.pdf as a guide that provides potential scenarios for eligibility.  Workers are asked to file claims by visiting this website:  www.raclaims.sd.gob. Those without internet may call the following number for assistance with filing their claim: 605-626-2452.

For more information on this topic, click https://dlr.sd.gov

 Our office will be monitoring COVID-19 updates closely and will be sending out additional announcements on our website as we become aware of new development: https://thomas-and-company.com/covid-19/.

 

Please reach out to your representative with any questions.