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On March 17, 2020 Governor Cooper issued Executive Order 118, which, in part, expanded the availability of unemployment benefits to workers who have been affected by COVID-19 so that they are eligible for unemployment benefits to the maximum extent permitted by federal law. The Order directed the Secretary of Commerce and Assistant Secretary of the Division of Employment Security to ensure maximum eligibility for individuals who, as a result of COVID-19:
- Have been separated from employment; or
- Have had their hours of employment reduced, or
- Are prevented from working due to a medical condition caused by COVID-19 or due to communicable disease control measures (such as isolation directives, federal, state, or local directives, or directives from a medical or public health professional).
Under normal circumstances, a person applying for or receiving benefits must meet rigorous requirements in order to gain or continue eligibility. However, the Governor’s order authorizes the North Carolina Department of Commerce to “interpret flexibly or waive” the following requirements:
- The typical one-week waiting period for unemployment benefits (N.C. Gen. Stat. § 96-14.1(b));
- The requirement that claimants be able and available to work while receiving benefits (N.C. Gen. Stat. § 96-14.9(b));
- The requirement that claimants actively seek work (N.C. Gen Stat. § 96-14.9(e)) and meet certain work search requirements (N.C. Gen. Stat. § 96-14.9(b)) while receiving benefits; and
- The requirement that claimants who are still employed, but who are working less than a normal schedule because of lack of work, have worked fewer than three customary scheduled full-time days in the payroll week for which benefits are requested (N.C. Gen. Stat. § 96-15.01(b)(2)(a).
EO118 also provides that employers’ unemployment accounts will not be charged for benefits paid to employees for reasons related to COVID-19, in order to ensure that an employer’s experience ratings are not impacted by COVID-9-related claims. Rather, the Department of Commerce is directed to separately account for these expenditures so that the State can seek reimbursement from the federal government.
Given the evolving news and updates around the spread of COVID-19 (Coronavirus), Howard, Stallings, From, Atkins, Angell & Davis remains open for business, and our offices remain staffed appropriately to meet your needs. While many of our attorneys and staff will be working remotely during the coming weeks, rest assured that we are still available to you, our phone numbers and emails are still the best way to reach us. We understand that you may have legal questions as we forge the path ahead. We remain dedicated to your success and are here for you. Let us know how we can help.
For your reference, we are compiling and analyzing state and federal legal updates here, which may effect your business. Visit our Business Legal Resource Center for updates.