On March 25, 2020, the Senate passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (“CARES Act”). Two days later, the House of Representatives passed the CARES Act and President Trump signed the bill into law the same day. Along with a host of other stimulus provisions, Title II of the CARES Act broadens eligibility for unemployment benefits and provides workers with an additional $600 per week in addition to the normal amounts paid under the Colorado Employment Security Act, C.R.S., § 8-70-101, et seq. (“CESA”).
Under normal circumstances, CESA provides unemployment benefits to workers, whose jobs have been terminated through no fault of their own. The CARES Act expands the class of individuals who are eligible for unemployment benefits to include workers who are furloughed or laid off as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. It also includes self-employed individuals and gig workers, as well as those who have exhausted ordinary unemployment benefit provisions. If an individual can work and is available for work within the meaning of CESA, then unemployment benefits will be paid if the individual is unable to work because:
the person has been diagnosed with COVID–19 or is experiencing symptoms of COVID–19 and seeking a medical diagnosis;
- the person lives with someone diagnosed with COVID–19;
- the person is providing care for a family member or a member of the person’s household who has been diagnosed with COVID–19;
- the person has primary caregiving responsibility for a child or other individual who is unable to attend school or another facility that is closed as a direct result of the COVID–19;
- the person cannot reach the place of employment because of a quarantine imposed as a direct result of the COVID–19;
- the person cannot reach the place of employment because a doctor has directed that person to self-quarantine due to COVID-19;
- the person was scheduled to start a new job, but is out of work because the person cannot reach the new place of employment;
- the person has become the breadwinner for a household because the head of the household has died of COVID–19;
- the person has to quit his or her job as a direct result of COVID–19; or
- the person’s place of employment is closed as a direct result of the COVID– 19.
The CARES Act also provides unemployment compensation for a person who is self-employed, is seeking part-time employment, does not have sufficient work history, or otherwise would not qualify for regular unemployment or extended benefits as long as that person meets one of the criteria described above. The Secretary of the U.S. Treasury has also been authorized to implement additional criteria for unemployment assistance under the CARES Act.
Any person who fraudulently obtains unemployment benefits under the CARES Act will be disqualified from receiving any other unemployment compensation under CESA and will be subject to criminal prosecution. As always, overpayments may be clawed back by the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment and may be subject to fines and other penalties.
Zumbrennen Law has extensive experience assisting both employers and employees in navigating the unemployment application and appeals process. If you have any questions or would like our assistance, please contact us.