Virtually everyone is now suffering significant financial distress as result of the coronavirus. It can be difficult to sort through the spiderweb of government and other benefits.
Here’s a quick guide we put together for you. And if you have additional questions, please call us at 1-800-663-7999. We’ll get through this together.
At the bottom of this article, we’ve also provided quick links directly to the websites of numerous government entities that are offering financial support.
First, Five Quick Strategies for Negotiating for Benefits:
Here are five things we recommend everyone do at each step of the process:
- Apply for Every Program and Benefit You’re Even Remotely Eligible For. Even if you’re unsure whether you’re entitled to benefits, or eligible for certain rights under the law or your employer’s policies, ask anyway. There is no downside to asking. The law is technical; you might be pleasantly surprised by the answer.
- Act Swiftly. Government agencies and employers are moving quickly, but their loads are heavy right now. Don’t wait to make your requests for financial relief or leave under applicable policies.
- Do it In Writing. As any lawyer will tell you, if it isn’t in writing, it didn’t happen. Make your requests in writing, to avoid misunderstandings and to create a paper trail.
- Keep Your Tone Upbeat and Professional. Government agencies and employers have some discretion in handling these requests. Even in times of great distress, it’s important to treat those on the other end with respect and dignity. Many a close decision will tilt in your favor if you follow this approach.
- Don’t Take No for An Answer. If you’re told you’re ineligible for government benefits or job-based leave, ask for an explanation, and appeal the decision if possible.
A Field Guide for Employees Affected by the Coronavirus Crisis
Employees are suddenly being subjected to a wild range of unexpected perils: unemployment, the loss of benefits, and exposure to a dangerous virus. We’re receiving hundreds of calls a week from worried and angry employees across Florida & Georgia. What do we do? What rights do we have?
We can provide some peace of mind. We’ve been representing employees in workplace issues for more than thirty years. It’s 100% of our practice. You have options, and you have protection. Let’s run through some of the best ones.
- If you’ve been laid off, apply for unemployment compensation benefits immediately. A layoff due to the coronavirus should entitle you to swift benefits. At the same time, apply for food assistance. There are offices across the Florida Panhandle and southern Georgia. Search online for the SNAP program (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program). You should apply for both benefits if your employer has significantly cut your hours – even if you’re still employed. Also, take a look online at the basic provisions of the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act. You may have rights if your employer closed down, made mass layoffs of any size, or laid off more than 500 employees at a single site.
- And if laid off, ask your employer to compensate you for accrued paid but unused leave. You must also be paid for any remaining time you worked, under federal wage and hour laws. Finally, remember to ask about COBRA (continuing health insurance) benefits.
- If you’re at home caring for children under 18 because their schools or daycares closed, ask your employer for benefits under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA). This law, adopted March 19, 2020, takes effect April 2. But request these benefits now; don’t wait. The FFCRA requires certain employers to provide full and part-time employees with paid sick leave or expanded Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) benefits. For many employees the normal FMLA eligibility requirements have been dropped. Unlike normal FMLA leave, FFCRA leave is paid in most circumstances.
- Student loan payments looming? If you have federally-held student loans, you can apply for “administrative forebearance,” which allows you to temporarily stop making your monthly payment.
- If you feel at risk from exposure to infection at work, ask your employer to provide physical or distance barriers from coworkers and customers. Ask for personal protective equipment (PPE) like masks and gloves. Ask for the right to telecommute, full or part time. If you suffer from medical conditions that place you at greater risk if infected – such as an immune system disorder – ask for FMLA leave, or for unpaid leave as an accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Many employers are unaware that the ADA, like the FMLA, also provides for unpaid leave as an option. Such leave can extend for months. And if you’ve been infected with the coronavirus on the job, apply – in addition to the above – for workers compensation benefits. Most states deem this a covered injury.
- Finally, don’t forget that Congress just passed the CARES Act (the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act), which will result in stimulus payments of up to $2,400.00 per family. Those checks have begun arriving.
There are many powerful options available for every family. Please hang in there. We’ll make it through, together.
Quick Links to Government Benefit Sites:
FFCRA (Emergency Paid Leave for families)
WARN Act (mass layoff information)
COBRA rights (continued health insurance benefits)
Questions? Call us, free, at (800) 663-7999
We can answer any question you have about your rights during this crisis. We can also point you to other links that might be unique to your situation. You must not hesitate to call. We are here for you 24 hours a day.
Categories: Coronavirus COVID 19