Architectural Columns

COVID-19 In The New York Workplace – SPECIAL: Unemployment Benefits

Please note that the information contained in this post is for informational purposes and is not to be considered legal advice. This blog post does not create or imply an attorney-client relationship.  If you would like to discuss your particular circumstances with us, please set up a consultation by contacting the Satter Ruhlen Law Firm at 315-471-0405 or through our website (  We look forward to walking you through your workplace rights.

While we are looking forward to posting about disability accommodations during the pandemic, we pause our regularly-scheduled blog to bring you some updates on unemployment benefits, based on the passage of the Federal CARES Act on March 27, 2020. These provisions went into effect upon passage, so if you are out of work due to COVID-19, there may be immediate relief available.

Unemployment Benefits Under the Federal CARES Act

Included in the 827-page Federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act signed into law on March 27, 2020 are several provisions which expand existing unemployment insurance benefits (UIB) for workers who are out of work because of COVID-19.  This post will discuss three new programs created under the CARES Act:  Pandemic Unemployment Compensation, Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation, and Pandemic Unemployment Assistance. 

Pandemic Unemployment Compensation provides an additional $600.00 per week in compensation to workers receiving UIB through July 31, 2020.  This additional $600.00 is in place regardless of the amount of UIB a worker otherwise receives, even if the worker is receiving partial UIB.  Currently, the New York Department of Labor pays a maximum of $504.00 in weekly UIB.

Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation provides an additional 13 weeks of state UIB, which will kick in after all regular state benefits have been used up.  (In New York, unemployed workers usually receive up to 26 weeks of UIB).  The additional 13 weeks of UIB is conditioned upon the worker actively seeking for work, with allowances for workers who are unable to conduct job searches due to illness, quarantine, or “movement restriction” such as the New York State On PAUSE order (Executive Order 202.6). 

Pandemic Unemployment Assistance gives emergency assistance to workers who usually can’t collect UIB, for example workers who have exhausted their state benefits, workers who are self-employed, independent contractors, and workers who do not have a long enough work history to qualify for traditional UIB.  The program will be effective until December 31, 2020, retroactive to January 27, 2020, for a maximum of 39 weeks.  The benefits are calculated in accordance with the state’s unemployment rules, but the minimum weekly benefit payable is half of the average benefit amount in the state.

To get Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, workers need to certify that they are partially or fully unemployed or unable to work because of one of the following reasons:

  • The worker has a diagnosis or symptoms of COVID-19
  • A member of the worker’s household has been diagnosed with COVID-19
  • The worker is caring for someone with COVID-19
  • The worker is providing childcare because of a school closing
  • The worker has been quarantined or advised by a healthcare worker to self-quarantine
  • The worker was offered a job but cannot start the job due to the COVID-19 outbreak
  • The worker has become the head of household because the head of household has died of COVID-19
  • The worker had to quit because of COVID-19
  • The workplace is closed due to COVID-19
  • Other criteria as may be promulgated by the Department of Labor. 

Workers are not eligible for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance if they are being paid to telework or are receiving paid sick days or paid leave. 

New York State Unemployment Benefits Under Executive Order 202.5

Executive Order 202.5 waives New York’s traditional 7-day waiting period for eligibility for employees who cannot work because their workplace is closed.

Because of the volume of applications, the New York Department of Labor requires workers to apply for UIB based on the first letter of their last name: 

  • A-F on Monday
  • G-N on Tuesday
  • O-Z on Wednesday
  • If you missed your filing day, you can file on Thursday or Friday.

The claim will be effective on the Monday of the week the claim was filed. 

NEXT UP:  In Part V, we’ll talk about Reasonable Accommodations during the pandemic.

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