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May 4, 2020

U.S. Department Of Labor Issues Guidance On Health Plans, Unemployment Insurance

The U.S. Department of Labor has issued new guidance for employers during the COVID-19 crisis.

The DOL’s Employee Benefits Security Administration has extended certain time frames affecting participants’ rights to healthcare coverage, portability, and continuation of group health plan coverage under COBRA. It also has extended the time for plan participants to file or perfect benefit claims or appeals of denied claims. Click here to read the guidance.

Because some Americans can now earn more by claiming unemployment, the DOL also recently issued a list of frequently asked questions that address employers’ concerns about work search and job refusal when an individual receives federal COVID-19 unemployment assistance.

Prior to the pandemic, the national average unemployment benefit was $372 per week. Benefits amounted to about half of a worker’s previous wages, up to a maximum benefit which varied by state.

Enhanced unemployment insurance for COVID-19 provides an additional $600 per week to each worker through the end of July, increasing the average weekly benefit to $972. With this increase, the average worker can receive about 100 percent of their previous wage through unemployment benefits, while some lower-income workers could receive twice as much as their previous wage. Based on this data, the average small business employee would make about eight percent more by accepting enhanced unemployment benefits than they would by returning to their job (with significant variation across states).