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Pennsylvania Enacts New Amendments To Unemployment Compensation Law

On March 27, 2020, Governor Wolf signed Act 9 of 2020 into law.  This law amends Pennsylvania’s unemployment compensation law in several ways.

First, the Act requires employers to present a notice of unemployment rights to all separated employees. The notice must include the following information:  (1) that unemployment compensation benefits are available to workers who are unemployed and meet the requirements of the Unemployment Compensation Act; (2) that an employee can file an unemployment compensation claim in the first week that work stops or work hours are reduced; (3) that assistance or information about unemployment compensation claims is available on Pennsylvania’s unemployment compensation website or by calling a toll-free number that the employer must provide; and (4) that employees filing a claim will need to provide information in order to file a claim, including: (a) the employee’s full legal name; (b) the employee’s social security number; and (c) if the employee is not a citizen or resident of the United States, the employee’s authorization to work in the United States.  This requirement goes into effect once notice of the requirement has been posted in the Pennsylvania Bulletin.

The Act also amends the requirements for contributory employers filing for relief from charges, by increasing the time to file for relief from charges from 15 days to 21 days from the date of the earliest notice issued by the Department of Labor and Industry (“Department”) indicating that the employee is eligible for benefits.  If the request is filed within this timeframe and relief is granted, relief will begin with the earliest week that the claimant was eligible for benefits.

The Act includes special provisions related specifically to the COVID-19 pandemic.  First, it waives the one-week waiting period for the duration of any disaster emergency declared by the Governor because of COVID-19.  Next, it waives the job search and registration requirements for the duration of any such disaster emergency.  The Act specifies that claimants still must meet the definition of “unemployed” under the Unemployment Compensation Act, which means that the claimant either has not performed any work for remuneration during the week or the claimant is partially employed and receiving remuneration, but the remuneration is less than the claimant’s weekly benefit rate plus partial benefit credit.  An employee will not be considered unemployed if the employer has a vacation shut down, and is providing vacation benefits to the employee.

The Act further provides that, to the extent a claimant’s unemployment is related to the COVID-19 outbreak, and to the extent permitted under federal law, the Department will provide relief from charges to any contributory employer whose account otherwise would be charged, and that this relief shall be provided automatically, without employers needing to apply for it.  Employers entitled to relief from charges are entitled to relief for the duration of a disaster emergency declared by the Governor which is related to COVID-19.

For reimbursable employers during a disaster emergency declared by the Governor which is related to COVID-19, employers who have elected to pay the solvency fee will automatically receive relief from charges.  For employers who have not elected to pay the solvency fee, payment of benefits shall be made within 120 days of the date of the statement of account notifying the employer of the repayment obligation.  This deadline may be extended by the Department for up to 60 days if requested by the employer, and the employer can demonstrate financial hardship.  The Department will offer interest-free payment plans to employers who demonstrate financial hardship.  No interest on late payments will accrue or be charged until January 1, 2021.

The Act also empowers the Pennsylvania Secretary of Labor and Industry to put into place temporary regulations as needed to comply with federal requirements to receive federal funding for extended unemployment benefits. Temporary regulations will expire 120 days after the expiration date of the federal law authorizing the funding.

If you have questions about this or any other employment or labor law matter, or if you want to obtain a form for the notice to be provided to employees under this Act, please contact S. Whitney Rahman at swr@blakingerthomas.com or (717) 509-7237, Grace C. Nguyen Bond at gcnb@blakingerthomas.com or (717) 509-7226, or Jill M. Laskowitz at jml@blakingerthomas.com or (717) 509-7261.

**This update is provided for informational purposes only and
should not be construed as legal advice or as creating an
attorney-client relationship where one does not already exist.**