Newell: Your unemployment questions answered with Ava Dejoie

Unemployment
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The latest jobs report shows 6.6 million Americans filing for unemployment last week, bringing the total to near 17 million across the country. In a recurring segment taking place every Thursday at 12pm, Newell invited Louisiana Workforce Commission Secretary Ava Dejoie onto the show to field questions about how employers and newly-unemployed workers can navigate the various systems they need to keep businesses open and stay afloat during the coronavirus crisis.

“You must be just inundated with claims as we speak,” Newell began. “A lot of people seem to be having difficulties getting access online, your thoughts?”

“We’re hoping that those issues are resolved, I can tell you we’ve had 207,000 individuals do their weekly certification,” Dejoie said. “That means those people have essentially given us timesheets for the week, and told us what their status was. They opened an initial claim and did their first week certification. So 207,000 individuals have completed that process successfully.”

“There seems to be some confusion on the recertification,” Newell continued. “That’s done weekly?” 

“Yes, I tell people to think of it like a timesheet and I think that helps folks to understand,” Dejoie answered. “Yes, you’ve opened a claim. Think of that as starting your job while you’re unemployed, which normally, for us, is to get you into a new job. COVID-19 changed that because you don’t have ‘work search’ right now. But you still have to tell us what you’re doing each week. You have to tell us, did you continue to be unemployed because of COVID-19 or other reasons, maybe you had your employer clock you in for four hours and you got paid for those? You have to tell us what you made and give us the timesheets so we can cut you a check.”

“Another question we are getting a lot - what does it mean to you for someone to be put on furlough? A lot of employers are doing that - does that keep you from getting unemployment?”

“No sir it does not,” Dejoie said. “Whether it's furloughed, temporary layoffs, separated from your employment… if you’re not receiving wages right now, however employers define those words is not a factor in your unemployment insurance benefits termination. If you’re not receiving wages during COVID-19, you could be eligible for unemployment insurance benefits and that’s why we’re saying to file weekly and tell us what your status is.”

“Let’s say you have a claimant that’s consumed their annual allocation, and then up comes COVID. Are they re-upped, or does that play into what they can ultimately receive?” Newell asked.

“For individuals that have exhausted benefits, they are eligible for the $600 of Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, and also are eligible for PEUC, or Pandemic Extended Unemployment Compensation. An eligibility has to be determined, but by and large, the $600 is going to be there for everyone that is not typically covered, like 1099s, gig workers and the like. Even if you’ve already exhausted state benefits, $600 will apply to you as well. That’s kind of the catch-all, and that’s the FPUC, Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation.”

“We have probably twenty text messages here about 1099 employees. How does a 1099 employee work through this process?”