Despite the expanded benefits, not all workers qualify for aid. Marla A. Linderman, an employment lawyer in Michigan, points out that individuals who were laid off or began taking leave before April 1 are not covered under the Families First Coronavirus Relief Act. “Originally it seemed like it would protect more people, but the way the Department of Labor is interpreting it, that’s a bright lie of April 1,” Linderman says.
How Employers Can Help Their Staff
With unemployment agencies overwhelmed, experts urge workers to be patient and persistent when applying for aid. And to make the process more efficient, Michele Evermore, a senior policy analyst at the National Employment Law Project, recommends that employers go straight to the unemployment agencies to let them know they laid off staff.
“What takes a lot of time in processing unemployment claims is that whenever an employee claims a benefit the agency then has to check with the employer and hear back from the employer before they can approve the benefit,” Evermore says. “So if the employer just goes in proactively then it’s just easier for everyone.”
Many businesses are also setting up fundraisers for their staff to help cushion the blow of losing work. Lil’ Deb’s Oasis, a women-owned restaurant in New York, let their staff go so they could collect unemployment. Beyond that aid, the business set up a GoFundMe to support their workers, which reached its $20,000 fundraising goal. And, while the restaurant team struggles with being apart during this crisis, they are finding a silver lining in the unexpected time-off.