Legislature passes Covid-19 unemployment benefit bills

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The Delaware General Assembly passed three bills related to unemployment benefits during a claims upsurge during a coronavirus crisis that could include a second wave of cases.

House Bill 353 aims to ensure that employers do not face new unemployment tax liabilities if they were forced to lay off workers, due to COVID-19 related shutdowns.

The Delaware Department plans to use other federal funds to repay the Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund for the COVID-19 related benefits.

House Bill 352 authorizes the Secretary of Labor to issue emergency rules to increase flexibility in unemployment benefits to deal with temporary layoffs, isolation, and quarantines during COVID-19 through mid-March of 2020.

House Bill 351 aims to ensure that unemployed workers have access to appeal any decisions made about their unemployment benefits. The bill, among other things, authorizes more hearing times for the board that handles appeals.

The bill also defers extended benefits under state law until after the payment of pandemic emergency unemployment compensation as required under the federal CARES Act.

The three bills were passed unanimously by both houses and await the governor’s signature.

Sponsor was State Rep. Edward S. Osienski, (D-Newark area).

Delaware has seen more than 100,000 apply for unemployment claims during the past three months that have put pressure on the state’s unemployment insurance fund.

Payments are headed to the half a billion-dollar mark for the fund that uses money from the federal government and the insurance fund, which is jointly financed by employer and employee taxes.

The state is expected to use a portion of the more than $1 billion in CARES Act funding it received from the federal government to pay for shortfalls in the insurance fund.

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