Minnesota: Unemployment Compensation Update
Executive Order 20-05
On March 16, 2020, Minnesota Governor Tim Walz issued Emergency Executive Order 20-05, providing immediate relief to both employers and employees who have been affected by COVID-19. The Executive Order does not have an end date and will remain in place until Gov. Walz declares that the peacetime emergency is over or rescinds the Order.
The Executive Order changed numerous aspects of unemployment insurance in Minnesota. Changes include:
- Waiving the waiting period for filing for unemployment benefits
- Presuming that unemployment is involuntary when
- health authorities or providers determine that the applicant’s presence in the workplace would jeopardize the health of others, regardless of whether the applicant has been diagnosed with a communicable disease;
- the applicant is under a quarantine or isolation order;
- a health care provider recommends that the applicant should self-quarantine or isolate because the applicant is immunocompromised and at high risk;
- the applicant’s employer instructs employees not to go to work due to an outbreak of a communicable disease; or
- the applicant has been notified by a school district, day care, or other childcare provider that classes are cancelled or childcare is unavailable if the applicant made a reasonable effort to obtain childcare and requested time off or an accommodation, and no reasonable accommodation was available.
- Waiving the five-week benefit limitation for business owners
- Clarifying that, although applicants still must actively seek suitable employment“suitable work” does not include jobs that pose a risk to an applicant’s health or the health of others
- Directing that COVID-19-related unemployment claims will not be used in calculating the employer’s future unemployment tax rate
Executive Order 20-29
Subsequently, on April 6, 2020, Gov. Walz issued Executive Order 20-29, amending Executive Order 20-05 to require:
- Suspended enforcement of Minn. Stat. § 268.085, subdivision 3, which would normally delay the receipt of unemployment benefits for any week that an applicant is receiving, has received, or will receive, vacation pay, sick pay, or PTO.
- Employers to notify separated employees that they can apply for unemployment insurance benefits. This obligation continues through December 31, 2020. “Separation from employment” is not defined in the Order, so the notice requirements may apply to terminations, reductions in hours, and furloughs.
The first amendment is of particular significance because it seems to directly contradict the federal CARES Act, which states that individuals who are on PTO are not eligible for the expanded unemployment benefits. Therefore, although certain Minnesotans may be eligible for unemployment benefits for weeks in which they are receiving PTO, vacation pay, or sick pay, they will not be able to simultaneously collect any supplemental benefits under the CARES Act.
The Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development, which runs the Minnesota Unemployment Insurance Program, has created a separate page explaining how unemployment benefits will function and how applicants can apply during the COVID-19 pandemic. That website is available here.
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