As Unemployment Trends Downward, Missouri Focuses on Transitioning Workers Back to Work
As Missouri begins to re-open the state under the Show Me Strong Recovery Plan set out by Governor Michael Parson, the Missouri Department of Labor and Industrial Relations' (DOLIR’s) Division of Employment Security (DES) announces new unemployment numbers as well as resources to help businesses and workers return to work.
The DES reported that a total of 52,023 initial claims for unemployment were filed for the week ending May 2, 2020, the most recent week for which claims information is available. That is a decrease of 4.9 percent in initial claims compared to the week ending April 25, 2020. Of the 52,023 initial claims, 45,241 were self-reported as being COVID-19 related. There were a total of 244,894 individuals filing weekly requests for payment (continued claims status) for the week ending May 2, 2020, with a total of $60,911,009 in regular unemployment benefits being paid for the week ending May 2, 2020.
It is important to note that regular unemployment benefits are paid out of the Missouri Unemployment Trust Fund while the three recently established federal programs under the CARES Act that are administered by the DES are fully federally funded and account for the majority of payments currently being processed by DES. To date, over $500 million has been paid to Missouri workers under the CARES Act programs. Based on the current Trust Fund balance, the DES has not yet needed to exercise its borrowing authority under the law. The Trust Fund balance continues to be monitored by the DES.
As Missouri re-opens, workers should expect to be recalled to work by employers in the coming weeks. Missourians who have been placed on a temporary layoff related to COVID-19 but refuse to return to work when recalled by their employer will lose unemployment benefits and have to repay any benefits received after the work refusal. Exceptions to returning to work under the law can be found on the DES website at http://labor.mo.gov/coronavirus website under question number 2. Employees recalled to work are strongly encouraged to work with their employer to make the process as smooth as possible. For example, consideration should be given to opportunities to work remotely.
The DES has developed a portal for employers to submit information about employees who refuse to return to work or quit their jobs. Employers simply login at http://uinteract.labor.mo.gov, click on “Benefits” and then on “Work Offer Refusal Detail.” Instructions can be found on a Help button on the Work Offer Refusal Detail Screen. Employers may complete the Work Offer Refusal Detail Screen or upload a completed Excel template provided on the site. Alternatively, the DES is providing employers the option to provide employee work refusal at http://labor.mo.gov without having to login to UInteract. Employers are strongly encouraged to report quits or work refusals as soon as possible.
As an additional program to help businesses transition employees safely back to work while observing social distancing and flexible scheduling, the DES notes that many employers have been taking advantage of the Missouri Shared Work program. The program allows an employer the flexibility to reduce its workforce temporarily as a precautionary health measure but also to continue to operate on a reduced basis. It not only allows an employer to retain employees and keep employees’ skillsets sharp, but allows an employer the flexibility to ramp up and scale down its workforce based on business needs and health concerns.
Missouri Shared Work employers report hours, not earnings, for their employees on a weekly basis in order for the employees to receive partial unemployment benefits. Additionally through July 25, 2020 any eligible Missouri Shared Work employee that receives at least one dollar in unemployment benefits during a week, will receive an additional weekly federal supplement of $600. As evidenced in the past, Shared Work saves jobs and minimizes economic damage in the state at large, but can have a particular economic impact in small local communities. For more information on the
Missouri Shared Work program, visit http://sharedwork.mo.gov.
For more information, please visit http://labor.mo.gov/coronavirus.