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Unemployment Benefits for Some N.H. Parents to End with Full School Reopening


New Hampshire parents who are currently collecting unemployment benefits to take care of kids during remote learning will no longer be eligible once schools fully reopen this month.

According to the New Hampshire Department of Employment Security, about 2,600 Granite Staters are accessing unemployment benefits to take care of kids where schools are hybrid or day care facilities are closed. Another 2,500 say this is one of several issues keeping them from working during the pandemic.

The benefits come from the CARES Act’s Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA). Stephanie McKay, of Plaistow, says many parents like her have relied on it as they left or lost jobs and began to oversee remote and hybrid learning.

“Many are terrified that with schools going back full time - if they remove that option from the form, they're going to be immediately shut off from benefits,” says McKay, who administers a Facebook support group for close to around 4,500 parents on unemployment.

Credit Graphics by Sara Plourde/NHPR
NHPR's COVID & The Classroom is a reporting project looking at the effects of the pandemic on New Hampshire's students, parents, teachers, and schools.

McKay says it might take parents months to find a new job or affordable day care after schools reopen. Many others want to finish the school year remotely for health and academic reasons.

The remote-only option must remain available to families, according to Gov. Chris Sununu’s executive order, but once those schools have reopened five days a week, parents in those districts won’t qualify for jobless aid.

Richard Lavers, the Deputy Commissioner of the New Hampshire Department of Employment Security, says the state has no wiggle room with federal unemployment eligibility.

“We need to make sure that we implement the program as close as we possibly can to the instructions from the U.S. Department of Labor, and we understand that in certain situations, that might create difficulty,” he says.

Lavers said parents who lost their jobs, are taking care of other dependents, or have been advised by their medical provider to quarantine would still be eligible for pandemic unemployment assistance.

Sarah Gibson joined NHPR's newsroom in 2018. She reports on education and demographics.
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