Affected workers asked to apply online at uimn.org

The COVID-19 crisis has required unprecedented action by state government to ensure the safety of Minnesotans. Governor Walz has taken action through Executive Order 20-04 to temporarily close all restaurants, bars, and other non-essential public businesses. We know this affects hundreds of thousands of workers in Minnesota who may now find themselves temporarily unemployed.

That’s why the Governor also signed Executive Order 20-05 to ensure Minnesotans affected by the COVID-19 crisis have access to unemployment benefits, and to ensure that businesses aren’t required to pay into the system to cover these additional costs.

We know many people and businesses are now learning more about this essential federal program than ever before. You can find lots of information on our website www.uimn.org, where we have a detailed FAQ available.

But in addition, we want to highlight some of the most frequent questions we’re getting about the program here in our blog.

Most importantly, we ask that anyone who is applying for UI and has access to the Internet please use our website, uimn.org. Our call centers are reserved for Minnesotans who are digitally disconnected, or who need language support. We can’t stress this enough – please apply online.

We know this is a difficult time for all Minnesotans, but especially those separated from work. We want to answer your questions and keep you posted on developments regularly, so please check back to this blog for regular updates.

Steve Grove, Commissioner of the Department of Employment & Economic Development

Q: Who is eligible for Unemployment Insurance benefits?

A: The core principle of unemployment insurance is that you are eligible if you are disconnected from your job by no fault of your own. Executive Order 20-05 extends that definition in the following ways.

You are eligible if:

If you have temporarily or permanently lost your job or had your hours reduced because of COVID-19

A healthcare professional or health authority recommended or ordered you to avoid contact with others due to COVID-19.

You have been ordered not to come to their workplace due to an outbreak of COVID-19.

You have received notification from a school district, daycare, or other childcare provider that either classes are canceled or your ordinary childcare is unavailable, provided that you made reasonable effort to obtain other childcare and requested time off or other accommodation from your employer and no reasonable accommodation was available.

Q: How do I apply for Unemployment Insurance?

A: If you have temporarily or permanently lost your job or had your hours reduced because of COVID-19, you should apply for unemployment insurance benefits. Apply online at uimn.org. Applying online is important to provide for the most efficient processing during this unprecedented situation. Applying online also saves phone lines for those who speak a language other than English or don’t have internet access.

Q: Should I take paid leave/sick leave due to this crisis, or take unemployment insurance?

A: Generally you should exhaust other forms of leave as they will pay you more than UI, but that is up to every individual worker.  Unemployment benefits are designed to provide about 50% of your regular wages and paid leave or sick leave typically provide more income if they are available. 

Q: How much in benefits am I eligible for?

A: Unemployment insurance pays approximately half what a worker’s average weekly wage was over the last year, to a maximum of $740 per week.  Typically, benefits last for 26 weeks if an individual is fully unemployed for each week 

Q: I was laid off today, how soon will I start to receive benefits?

A: We will process your application as quickly as possible. Submitting your application online is the most efficient way for us to process your application. The uimn.org website is able to accept applications Monday through Friday 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. We are working to add Sunday hours.  

Q: I am a freelancer or self-employed, do I qualify for UI benefits?

A: The UI program is designed primarily for laid off workers who worked for an employer. Most Minnesota workers are “covered” by the UI program. Some self-employed individuals and independent contractors have previously elected to be covered by the UI program and they qualify for UI benefits. There is no assistance from the UI program for self-employed workers and independent contractors who have not previously elected coverage. 

Q: Is there anything DEED can do to help my business avoid layoffs?

A: If employers meet eligibility requirements, you may be able to enroll in the Shared Work Program. This program offers an alternative to layoffs in which employees work reduced hours during a temporary slowdown. Employees are paid unemployment benefits to offset part of their reduced wages. Employers with questions about the Shared Work Program should contact us at shared.work@state.mn.us.

Q: If I’m taking paid or sick leave during this time, am I eligible for UI?

A: Generally, if you are taking other forms of leave payment, you are not eligible for UI.

Q: How much money does Minnesota have in its UI Trust Fund?

A: Minnesota’s UI trust fund currently has a healthy amount of funding in it. We know we’re facing a surge in applications and will model this carefully. The federal government is currently considering providing additional emergency funds to all states. When states trust fund run dry, they can apply for 0% interest loans from the federal government.

Have more questions about whether you qualify for Unemployment Insurance, how to apply and what the process is? Please visit the UI Need to Know page.

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