On April 6, Minnesota Governor Tim Walz signed Emergency Executive Order 20-29 making two important additions to Emergency Executive Order 20-05, which went into effect on March 16. The earlier order was intended to ensure that workers in Minnesota affected by the coronavirus pandemic have full and immediate access to unemployment compensation benefits.
The new order temporarily suspends current restrictions on payment of unemployment benefits during any week that an applicant also receives payouts of vacation pay, sick pay or personal time off (PTO) pay. Applicants now therefore can accept employer paid time-off benefits while also receiving unemployment.
Executive Order 20-29 also now mandates, consistent with recent federal coronavirus relief legislation, that employers must notify separated employees that they are eligible to apply for unemployment insurance benefits. That federal legislation, the CARES Act bolstered state unemployment compensation benefits by adding an additional $600 per week in benefits through July 31, 2020, and extending the state payment obligation to 39 weeks, up from the standard 26 weeks. This mandate will be in effect through December 31, 2020.
Under Executive Order 20-05, persons eligible for unemployment benefits include:
- Individuals who have been ordered by a health care professional or health authority to avoid contact with others;
- Individuals who have been ordered by their employer or the state not to come to their workplace due to the coronavirus outbreak; and
- Individuals who have been notified by a school district, daycare or other childcare provider that classes are canceled or the ordinary childcare is unavailable, provided that the applicant makes reasonable efforts to obtain other arrangements, requests time off or other accommodations, and no other reasonable accommodation was available.
For eligible persons, the typical waiting period for payment of unemployment compensation benefits is waived and payments will begin as quickly as possible. These benefits will be funded by the state with federal support, not employers.
Caveat Employer: Although employers are required to notify employees of their eligibility to apply for unemployment, they should avoid telling employees that if they apply, they will qualify or that if they qualify what their weekly benefits will be. The employer has no control over those decisions. Instead employers should simply inform separated employees of their right to immediately apply for unemployment benefits and direct them to the Minnesota DEED website.