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Via The Maryland Department of Labor

Mechanicsville, MD- Last week, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan shuttered schools for at least 2 weeks. Colleges have closed campuses for the rest of the month or longer. Monday, March 16, Hogan surprised everyone and closed all gyms, and movie theaters. Bars and restaurants were closed for business except for carry-out, delivery, and drive-thru. The 250 people gathering limit was lowered to 50 people, enforceable by law.

Businesses were forced to close their doors. Musicians were forced to cancel gigs, some of them, their only income. Bars that didn’t serve food were shuttered also.

On Saturday, the House passed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act after negotiations with the White House. The bill, supported by President Trump and headed to the Senate, aims to provide money to most American workers stuck at home due to the coronavirus.

If the bill is approved by the Senate and signed by Trump, it would grant two weeks of paid sick leave at 100 percent of the person’s normal salary, up to $511 per day. It would also provide up to 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave at 67 percent of the person’s normal pay, up to $200 per day.

But there’s a catch: It doesn’t cover everyone. Small and midsize companies are required to provide these benefits (though companies under 50 workers can apply for a waiver from the paid family leave). “Gig” workers and people who are self-employed get the benefits in the form of a tax credit.

If you’re a”gig” worker, i.e. Musician, Uber, Lyft..you get a new form of paid sick leave and family leave. You will eligible for a 2-week sick leave tax credit at average pay, and up to 12 weeks of family leave pay at 2/3 the normal rate.

These workers must show that they had to comply with a self-isolation recommendation or that they had to care for a family member or a child whose school closed due to the coronavirus. Their benefit is capped at $511 per day for paid sick leave and $200 for family leave (or the average daily income the person usually receives if it is less than those amounts).

The tax credit can be applied to your 2020 tax return and is refundable if you receive a refund. The Sick Leave pay will apply to anyone told to quarantine, showing symptoms, exposed to the virus or trying to get test/preventative care.

There are still things that are going to come out of Congress and possibly Maryland itself. No matter what, look at all your options, and if things don’t look good for you in terms of reimbursing lost wages; look at what you can do to fix that going forward.

What can employees do?

File unemployment if you meet the criteria… As a rule, once an individual becomes unemployed, they should apply for benefits immediately. Section 8-101 of Maryland’s Unemployment Insurance Law states that claims are effective only from the week that they are filed and will not be backdated. Therefore, if a claimant is eligible, that person can only be paid benefits from the time that they filed.

Maryland Department of Labor Unemployment

Claimant Most Frequently Asked Questions – Unemployment Insurance

Will workers qualify for unemployment benefits if the coronavirus (COVID-19) causes an employer to shut down operations?

  • Yes. Maryland unemployment benefits are available to individuals who are unemployed through no fault of their own. If an employer must shut down operations and no work is available, individuals may be eligible for unemployment benefits if they meet the monetary criteria and the weekly eligibility criteria

If an employer lays off employees due to the loss of production caused by the coronavirus, will the employees be eligible for unemployment insurance benefits?

  • Yes. Maryland unemployment benefits are available to any individual who is unemployed through no fault of his/her own. If an employer must lay off employees due to the loss of production caused by the coronavirus, individuals may be eligible for unemployment benefits if they meet the monetary criteria and the weekly eligibility criteria.

What if my employer goes out of business as a result of COVID-19?

My employer has shut down operations temporarily because an employee is sick and we have been asked to isolate or quarantine as a result of COVID-19. Am I eligible for unemployment benefits?

  • If you are not receiving payment from your employer, such as paid sick leave or paid time off, you may be eligible for unemployment benefits during this time. Please check Claimant Frequently Asked Questions page for general information.

If I am temporarily laid off work because the business has slowed down as a result of COVID-19, can I receive unemployment insurance benefits?

  • If you are laid off work temporarily or if your hours are reduced due to a business slowdown or a lack of demand as a result of COVID-19, you may be able to receive unemployment benefits.

Can I still collect unemployment benefits if I am able to work remotely from home?

  • Working your full normal hours remotely would not qualify you for benefits. However, you may be eligible to collect some Unemployment Insurance benefits if your usual number of work hours are reduced through no fault of your own.

There are some different possibilities if you become infected with COVID-19 or are quarantined due to suspected COVID-19

If I need to take time off work because I contract COVID-19, will I be eligible for unemployment insurance benefits?

  • No. You are not unemployed. The first and best option for employees who need to miss work due to illness is to use their employer-paid time off. The Maryland Healthy Working Families Act requires employers with 15 or more employees to provide paid sick and safe leave for certain employees. Maryland employers who employ 14 or fewer employees are required to provide unpaid sick and safe leave for certain employees. Find more information about the Maryland Healthy Working Families Act.

If an asymptomatic employee imposes a self-quarantine because of the coronavirus, will they be eligible for unemployment benefits?

  • No. The employee is still employed. Unemployment benefits are available to individuals who are totally or partially unemployed due to no fault of their own. In this example, the individual—not the employer—is choosing not to work and, therefore, would be ineligible. However, the facts of each circumstance are important. If the employer allowed this individual to telework, they would not qualify for benefits because they would not be unemployed.

If an employee is in mandatory quarantine because of suspicion of having the coronavirus, will they be eligible for unemployment benefits?

  • They might meet the initial eligibility criteria but not the ongoing eligibility criteria, which require them to be able to work, available for work, and actively seeking suitable work. If the employer required the individual to stay home but did not offer telework, the individual might be eligible for benefits if they met the monetary and weekly eligibility criteria.

What if I am asked by a medical professional or public health official to quarantine as a result of COVID-19, but I am not sick?

  • If you are following guidance issued by a medical professional or public health official to isolate or quarantine yourself as a result of exposure to COVID-19 and you are not receiving paid sick leave from your employer, you may be eligible to receive unemployment benefits. If you know you can return to your job as soon as your isolation or quarantine is lifted, you may not need to search for work. You must be able to accept any work offered by your employer that would not cause you to break isolation or quarantine

For the Employer:

If an employee receives unemployment benefits as a result of a coronavirus-related business shutdown, will the employer’s unemployment taxes increase?

  • Unemployment benefits are proportionately charged to each employer based on weeks worked and wages earned in each individual’s base period. Contributory employers could see an increase in their tax rate, which would result in higher taxes.
  • Reimbursing employers would be charged dollar for dollar benefits paid, which could result in higher than expected unemployment costs.

David M. Higgins II, Publisher/Editor

David M. Higgins was born in Baltimore and grew up in Southern Maryland. He has had a passion for journalism since high school. After spending many years in the Hospitality Industry he began working in...