FAQs On New N.H. Unemployment Requirements: Do You Qualify? | New Hampshire Public Radio

FAQs On New N.H. Unemployment Requirements: Do You Qualify?

Apr 27, 2020

Credit Mediaweek via Flickr CC

Updated on April 27, 2020 at 10:24 a.m.  

Following an executive order from Governor Sununu and the passage of the federal CARES Act, many more people are now able to apply for unemployment benefits as a result of COVID-19, including those who need to quarantine, and those who are self-employed.

The Exchange spoke with Deputy Commissioner Richard Lavers of N.H. Employment Security in March and April. You can find those full conversations here and here.

Read all of NHPR's coronavirus coverage here. 

Credit Sara Plourde for NHPR

 

Quick Facts:

Who qualifies?

Anyone who has seen a reduction in hours or job loss as a result of the pandemic, including those who are self-employed or are contractors.

I live in one state, but work in another. Which state do I file in?

File in the state you work in. So, if you live outside of New Hampshire, but work in New Hampshire, file with the New Hampshire Employment Security Office. 

What does the federal CARES Act cover?

Prior to the pandemic, the maximum weekly benefit amount was $427 a week, for those who earned up to $41,400 in their four-quarter base period, or above. 

Now, that same individual recieves an additional $600 weekly benefit, for up to $1027 a week.

Where do I apply?

Call 603-271-7700, or go to nhes.nh.gov

Q&A With Rich Lavers, Deputy Commissioner of N.H. Employment Security

 The following quotes are from two conversations on The Exchange with  Deputy Commissioner Richard Lavers of N.H. Employment Security. You can find those full conversations here and here.

Responses have been edited lightly for clarity. 

How has eligibility for unemployment benefits been extended for those affected by the coronavirus?

"If you wanted to self-quarantine, if you need to take care of your child because schools are closed or take care of a loved one or you are sick, you were able to file and be found eligible under the governor's order. And he also extended that out to the self-employed."

How much of a reduction in hours do I need to qualify?

“Individuals that continue to work full time are not eligible for unemployment.

"For a person that does see a reduction in hours, it doesn't need to be a complete elimination of hours. It just needs to be a partial reduction - as long as there is a partial reduction in work and a reduction in earnings, then the individual is eligible."

What if I was working a full-time job, and a part-time job to supplement my income, and lost one of those jobs as a result of the pandemic?

"If an individual is currently working full time, they are unable to file and collect unemployment...

"If we flip that scenario around, and an individual had lost their full time employment but was still working part time, you can still work part-time in New Hampshire and collect your unemployment. 

"We have what we call a 30 percent disregard. So individuals are allowed to earn in part time employment up to 30 percent of their weekly benefit amount. Anything above that would then reduce your weekly benefit amount, dollar for dollar."

What documentation do I need?

“We are not requiring a doctor's note. We are requiring the individual to self attest to the particular reason why they are out right now and unable to work. And we are reviewing each of those as they come in. 

“Information then goes out to the employer about that claim. And the employers have been really good about returning that information as quickly as possible. We've been able to get payments out the door because of that process quicker than we had originally hoped...

"We understand that, in an ideal world, we would be requiring more documentation regarding someone who is quarantining or needing to take care of a child. But I don't think right now, with the extent of this crisis, and the importance of getting these dollars out as quickly as possible, not only for the individuals, but New Hampshire's economy in general, to be able to weather this crisis, that we have to be careful in what processes we create, that we don't create roadblocks for getting these critical dollars out.”

What if I am self-employed? 

“We give you a copy of the net earnings statement that we're asking you to fill out to self-test your earnings from your 2019 federal tax return. If you have not filed that yet, we'd be working with you on your 2018 numbers as a substitute for those. 

"But just to be clear, self-employed individuals became eligible on an emergency basis during this crisis by Governor Sununu's order. Then that continues under the CARES Act and the federal legislation that was passed on Friday evening.”

Are there stipulations for self-employed individuals?

"Individuals that were self-employed [now have eligibility] only if you aren't otherwise eligible for state benefits. That is a requirement from the Federal CARES Act:

"In the situation where an individual has both W-2 earnings and 1099, those W-2 earnings provide them with eligibility for the state benefit, and so that's what we would be looking at first with this individuals.

"They would have state eligibility based upon their W-2 earnings. That's not a New Hampshire restriction. That is a federal restriction and guidance that we have received from the U.S. Department of Labor."

What if I was laid off before the changes in unemployment qualifications, but I am still unable to find a job?

"You would qualify for the additional $600 a week that came through with the CARES Act, that will be added to your weekly benefit amount. It will be in your that single check. It will not be in a second check or be in that same direct deposit."

If I was already filing for unemployment, do I need to reapply under the new requirements?

"[No.] So it applies to people that are claiming right now that started claiming prior to the the the crisis. So all [a person] needs to do is continue to file is [their] weekly claims. 

"People can start filing those weekly claims each week on Sunday through that next Saturday. And you're always claiming for that prior week of unemployment."

What if I have exhausted my 26 week unemployment benefit period during the crisis?

"So those folks that would exhaust their 26 weeks of benefits are able to start collecting right away again without having to wait to the end of their benefit year and having that delay and being able to access benefits again.

"[There is a] recognition on the federal level that the ability of individuals to find work and not exhaust benefits is very much limited right now."

What if an employee is simply uncomfortable going to work right now, but the company they work for is still open? If employee is scared of catching the virus and wants to stay home, is that person eligible for unemployment right now?

"Initially there was eligibility for folks that had done just that, that felt they needed to self-quarantine, [but] there was some language that was passed as part of the CARES Act, that addressed that scenario somewhat differently, and talked about individuals that had a need to quit employment as a direct result of COVID 19. 

"The state of New Hampshire has asked the US Department of Labor for some clarification on that particular type of eligibility, and asked whether or not states are allowed to pay individuals that are quarantining as a result of a directive provided by a public health official or a health care official, or if they're allowed to self-quarantine without having received either of those.

"We haven't received that guidance yet. So right now, that individual is able to file. And if he's able to certify as to that reason for not being employed, he would be found eligible. But that could change with the guidance that comes out from the U.S. Department of Labor."

What if I tried to go back to work after a period of leave (such as family or medical leave) before the pandemic started, and now my employer won't hire me back?

"You certainly can... and obviously you would then need to select the appropriate reason for not working right now.  But that is a scenario that is covered under under the CARES Act."

What is the role of the employer?

"All employers get notices of claims that are filed against against their account, and they have the opportunity to protest that.

"Obviously, if they know that the reason for separation is other than what someone has indicated on their claim, or if an employer has tried to bring somebody back, they [can protest against] that person continuing to be able to file. 

"Of particular note for employers in the state is that the benefit charges, that is, the benefits that are being paid, are not impacting the employer's individual account.

"So for-profit employers pay in to this system on a quarterly basis based upon the wages that they've paid out, and they have their own unique tax rate that is based on their experience with the unemployment system. We look at how much they've paid in taxes, how much we've paid out in benefits to their former employees, and then that provides them with a rate at which they pay.

"Obviously, employers usually have very much an incentive to be reviewing each and every claim. Right now, none of those benefits are being charged against their account. So there's no negative impact on an employer's account."

What is being done to keep the staff and volunteers working at the Employment Security office safe?

"The people that work at employment security, the volunteers that have been been assisting, these are incredibly hardworking, dedicated people. I can't say enough about my just how impressed I am with the people that work for this department.

"We were one of the first, if not the first, public-facing agency that shut down our offices so we stopped allowing members of the public to come into our offices. That was to protect our staff. We have screening checkpoints at each and every one of our buildings that contain a call center. 

"At our main building here in Concord, we have a screening checkpoint operated by the National Guard, where they take temperatures and ask COVID 19 related questions of individuals before they come in to the building. We have brought on additional cleaning crews that thoroughly clean our buildings with all CDC approve methods and materials each and every night.

"We have staff cleaning our buildings throughout the day, cleaning down, wiping down, frequently touched surfaces, and we're doing everything we can to promote the health and safety of the very valuable people that work for us."