Missouri Gets Back to Work
On Tuesday, June 16, the governor lifted all statewide stay-at-home orders regarding COVID-19 and launched Phase 2 of Missouri’s Show-Me Strong Recovery Plan. Although the pandemic is still a concern, our state is ready to get back to work. As businesses reopen and customers return to stores and restaurants, Missouri employers and employees alike need to be aware of changes in the state unemployment insurance program.
Beginning July 5, individuals receiving unemployment assistance must demonstrate they’re making an effort to find a job. The long-standing requirement to report work search activities was waived during the COVID-19 pandemic. Going forward, most people receiving unemployment benefits will need to show at least three qualifying work search activities each week. Qualified activities include (but are not limited to) filling out an employment application either in-person or online, attending a job fair, participating in a skills workshop or having an interview. Part-time employment during the week also is credited on a per-day basis. Union members can receive credit for checking in at their hall or attending training.
The requirement for job hunting activities applies to those receiving traditional unemployment, as well as those participating in programs funded through the CARES Act, such as Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) and the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) program. Workers who have been provided a specific recall date by their employer, those participating in Missouri’s Shared Work Program and those enrolled in approved training do not need to report job search activities in order to continue receiving benefits.
Idled workers who need help meeting these requirements can find resources online at jobs.mo.gov. Physical locations of most Missouri Jobs Centers, including those in Rolla and at Fort Leonard Wood, remain closed due to COVID-19 but should reopen soon. You can also find more information about unemployment insurance online at labor.mo.gov.
Also beginning July 5, employers will again have unemployment claims deducted from their accounts. To avoid these charges, an employer may log onto their UInteract online account and report any employees who are receiving pay through the Paycheck Protection Program, as well as those who refuse to return to work. Generally, any employee who rejects a work call-back will forfeit unemployment benefits unless they meet specific COVID-19 exceptions.
Businesses needing help transitioning back to full employment may want to look into Missouri’s Shared Work Unemployment Compensation program. This 30-year-old program was originally designed to encourage firms experiencing a work slow-down to keep their workers on the job, albeit with reduced hours. Under the Shared Work program, the state makes up a portion of the employee’s lost wages through unemployment insurance. The program became even more attractive during the COVID-19 pandemic since anyone earning even $1 of unemployment insurance qualifies for the $600 per week federal supplement provided by the CARES Act. Employers participating in the Shared Work program will not be charged for their employee’s unemployment claims through Dec. 26.
Changes to unemployment insurance programs are to be expected as Missouri’s economic recovery progresses. The good news is that we’re turning the corner. It’s my hope that our state will soon see a return to the robust business climate we experienced prior to the pandemic and there will be less need for these programs in the future.
It’s my honor to serve as your senator for the 16th District. If you have questions or need any assistance, please call my office at 573-751-5713 or log onto my webpage at https://www.senate.mo.gov/brown for more information.