Warner: Ensure workers can get unemployment benefits

coronavirus politics
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U.S. Sen. Mark Warner joined Senate Democratic colleagues in pressing the Department of Labor to ensure workers Congress intended to be covered by the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Program receive the benefits they deserve.

The program, which was established in the CARES Act, is intended to make sure that individuals who would normally not qualify for unemployment benefits under state law, but are currently unemployed, unable, or unavailable to work as a direct result of the COVID-19 health crisis, are eligible to receive unemployment compensation.

“[P]arts of the guidance appear narrow or ambiguous, which could make states think they need to exclude workers who Congress clearly intended to receive unemployment compensation through the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program,” the senators wrote in their letter to Secretary of Labor Eugene Scalia.

In the letter, the senators are requesting the Department of Labor clarify its guidance pertaining to workers who have been diagnosed with COVID-19 without receiving a test, workers with COVID-19 who take time off of work, workers without child care options in summer months, workers unable to get to work due to stay-at-home orders, workers with underlying health conditions like asthma, and self-employed workers like gig workers who are unable to work due to plummeting demand for their services.

Earlier this month, Sen. Warner sent a letter to Secretary Scalia calling on the federal agency to streamline the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) process by issuing additional, more comprehensive guidance to states so they can quickly implement the unemployment provisions in the CARES Act and ensure that gig workers are able to access unemployment benefits in the midst of the growing economic emergency.

Among other recommendations, the letter called on the Department of Labor to take the lead with innovative technological solutions for administration of the PUA that states could use in order to facilitate the process and limit the need to stand up new state-level solutions.

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