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The $600 weekly Pandemic Unemployment Assistance for people who lost their jobs due to COVID-19 will end on Saturday, July 25.  It is unclear whether Congress will pass legislation to provide additional benefits for workers who are unable to return to work due to business closures or down-sizing.

Proposed options include:

  • Extending the current benefits for a limited period (one proposal ties this extension to state unemployment numbers dropping and remaining below a certain level)
  • Providing unemployment benefits equal to prior income (instead of the current $600 per week regardless of prior income which has been problematic because some people receive more in unemployment benefits than they made working)
  • Setting a sliding scale of benefits tied to state unemployment rates (federal benefits would be tied more closely to each state’s minimum wage instead of a flat weekly amount)
  • Providing a return-to-work bonus that would encourage people who have jobs available to them to return to work (this option does not provide additional assistance for people whose jobs are no longer available so it is unlikely to be enacted)

Whether or not Congress provides additional unemployment benefits, business owners will be contacting employees who were laid off or furloughed about returning to work as their business requires more manpower.  Failure to return to work is grounds for disqualification for unemployment benefits and should be reported to the Louisiana Workforce Commission (LWC). A link to the LWC form is available on Next Level Solutions’ website.

For employees who have already returned to work or who do so now, business owners are required to provide up to 80 hours (two weeks’ equivalent for part-time employees) in paid sick leave for COVID-19 related health care for the employee’s own illness, mandatory quarantine, or to provide care for immediate family or household members. Employees should be required to provide documentation from a medical provider that this leave is COVID-19 related.

Business owners are also responsible for providing a safe work environment, complying with mandatory mask orders, providing hand sanitizer or soap and water, and taking other reasonable precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace. Employees who exhibit symptoms of coronavirus should be sent home and not allowed to return to work until they are symptom-free or have been released by a doctor to return to work. This sick leave would be treated like any other unless it is documented to be COVID-19 related.

An HR professional can help you with all of your human resources needs. From hiring the right employees, running background checks, creating employee handbooks that include anti-harassment policies and procedures, and so much more, Next Level Solutions can work with you to provide the services that you need to run your business.