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DOL Updates for COVID-19

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As a firm, we have been receiving questions on DOL partial claims filings and wanted to give some clarification on these items. Members of our firm attended a zoom call last week hosted by Georgia Chamber which featured DOL Commissioner Mark Butler. He covered numerous questions employers had but had not been answered. Below are some highlights: 

  1. The term “partial claims” does not mean partial pay. It refers to employees that have hours reduced or temporarily suspended due to lack of work.
  2. It is important that employers continue to file new hire reports so employees are not double dipping into the system. Some employers are laying off and filing partial claims while other employers are hiring. Employers must report any wage earned by the person they are filing a claim for during any given reporting period.
  3. An employee can earn up to $300 per week (from his/her current employer or any other employer) and still receive full benefits up to the maximum of $365 (for a total of $665 per week). Any amount earned over the $300 then reduces approved benefits dollar for dollar. Not everyone will receive $365, this is the maximum benefit.
  4. In order for employees to qualify for the federal CARES portion of unemployment, $600 additional, the employee must receive at least $1 of benefits from the state. This may affect high wage earners that are still working part time. For example, if the benefit is calculated so the individual receives the maximum state benefit of $365 maximum amount that employee can earn in a week is $664 ($300 + $364) which will reduce the approved benefit to $1 and the employee can then receive the additional $600. If the employee makes $665 then the individual will not receive any benefit from state or federal.
  5. Claims will not cause the employers’ DOL rate to increase, that portion of the law has been waived. Self‐insured employers are not required to reimburse the state for any claims paid on their behalf.
  6. Sole proprietors, independent contractors, non‐profit employees will be able to file for unemployment but as of April 6, 2020 that process is not in place. The DOL is working on a system to capture these workers and work history as they are not currently in the DOL system. As of Monday, April 6, the DOL site is stating that these individuals do not need to apply at this time and that instructions will be provided by April 10th.
  7. As you can image, call volume to the DOL is huge. Employers should email the DOL which is being monitored and may result in a quicker response. Please expect a 24 hour turn around on responses. https://dol.georgia.gov/email‐us
  8. Employers do not report the average annual wages for the employee when filing a partial claim. The DOL is using an 18 month look back period to determine how much an employee will receive in benefits. The only time employers are to report income on a partial claim is when the employee earned income during that reporting period (either from the employer filing for them or from another employer). When EARNED, not paid.
  9. Some employers seem to believe that the DOL is “making up the difference” in what they are not able to pay their employeesbut that is not how it works.
  10. Commissioned based employees that are paid through payroll which has been reported to the DOL are treatedthe same as any other employee. If the employee is not able to work then employers are required to file a partial claim. If a commissioned employee earns income during a reporting period it is to be treated as any other wage and reported as earnings.