CARES Act Boosted Unemployment Insurance Payments​

Written By: David T. Azrin Jay L. Hack Jared B. Foley Beatrice Lesser Kyle G. Kunst Craig S. Tarasoff

coronavirus unemployment application

What is the amount of the increased unemployment payment?
$600 per week, in addition to regular state unemployment insurance benefits, for a maximum of 39 weeks between January 27, 2020, and December 31, 2020.

Who is eligible? 
Persons who are out of work for reasons directly related to the Coronavirus pandemic, while the person is unemployed, partially unemployed, or unable to work, for any of the following reasons:

a. The individual, or a member of the household, has been diagnosed with COVID-19 or is experiencing symptoms and seeking a diagnosis, or the individual is providing care for such a member of the household;
b. A child, or another person for which the individual is primary caregiver, is unable to attend school closed as a direct result of the COVID-19 health emergency;
c. The individual is unable to reach the place of employment because of a quarantine imposed as a direct result of the COVID-19 public health emergency, or because the individual has been advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine;
d. The individual has become major support for a household because the head of the household has died as a direct result of COVID-19;
e. The individual had to quit as a direct result of COVID-19; or
f. The individual’s place of employment is closed as a direct result of the COVID-19 public health emergency.

A person who is self-employed and seeking part-time employment, but does not have sufficient work history or would not qualify for regular unemployment benefits, may qualify for the boosted $600 weekly unemployment benefit. 
Individuals who have the right and ability to telework with pay, and those individuals receiving paid sick leave or other paid leave benefits, do not qualify for the boost in unemployment insurance benefits. 

Will employees be entitled to unemployment insurance benefits if they continue to work but their hours or their pay is reduced?
Only if they work three or fewer days per week.
Under the CARES Act, an employee only gets the $600 boost if the employee qualifies for any state unemployment insurance benefits.
Under New York law, if an employer reduces an employee’s hours or pay, the employee is not entitled to obtain unemployment insurance, unless

  1. the employer reduces their schedule to three days or less a week, or
  2. the employer reduces the schedule to four days (so they are considered totally unemployed for one day per week) and their reduced pay is less than $504 per week (the maximum unemployment insurance benefit).

If the employer reduces the hours to three days or less a week, or to four days but they are making less than $504 per week, the employee can obtain partial unemployment insurance benefits.
If the employer reduces the hours or pay, but the employee continues working four or five days a week (even if it is only for 1-2 hours per day), then the employee will not be able to obtain any state or federal unemployment insurance benefits, and will be disqualified from benefits if the employee resigns.
The Attorney General has recently issued guidance, and the Department of Labor has issued guidance, on this issue and other unemployment issues in light of the Coronavirus pandemic, in the form of FAQs, as follows: 
“Q. What if my hours were heavily reduced? Or, what if I worked multiple jobs, and was laid off from one of the jobs?
A. Employees may be entitled to partial unemployment insurance benefits if they work fewer than four days a week and do not earn over the maximum rate of $504 per week. Depending on how many days per week you continue to work, you may receive up to three-quarters of your average weekly rate in partial benefits. Employees who receive partial benefits are entitled to receive benefits for a longer period of time than employees who receive full unemployment insurance benefits.”
“Q. My employer has reduced my hours because of COVID-19. Am I eligible for Unemployment Insurance?
It depends. If you work less than four days a week and earn $504/week or less, you may be eligible to receive partial UI benefits.”
Is there an alternative program to provide benefits to workers with reduced hours?
An employer who wants to reduce hours by 20-60% but wants the workers to continue working five days per week can submit a “short-time compensation program” or “shared work plan” to the Department of Labor, specifying the workers and the proposed reduction in hours. If the plan is approved, the retained employees can obtain “shared work benefits” even though they are still working, to boost their reduced pay by an amount equal to the percentage reduction times the amount of the unemployment insurance benefit they would have received if they were terminated. 
See this guide for an explanation of the state’s existing Shared Work Program. The CARES Act does not provide additional benefits for such workers but provides that the federal government will reimburse the state for the costs of this existing program.

about the authors

Beatrice Lesser


For more than 20 years, Ms. Lesser has been counsel to numerous co-ops and condos, individuals and businesses, landlords and tenants, and homeowners associations. Ms. Lesser has been advising them regarding all aspects of litigation in real estate law, contracts, leases, discrimination, restrictive covenants, Loft Law, and other related issues.

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