CHARLESTON, W.Va. — As WorkForce West Virginia processes thousands of applications for unemployment benefits each week, agency officials are reminding recipients to be mindful of state and federal eligibility requirements.
“While certain state laws regarding unemployment benefits have been waived to help alleviate financial burdens caused by COVID-19, we cannot waive federal requirements,” said Scott Adkins, acting WorkForce Commissioner. “Most workers receiving unemployment benefits are following the law, but we want to remind folks that they need to educate themselves on what they need to do as they file claims each week.”
Federal unemployment compensation law requires that unemployment claimants be able and available to work and actively seek work, in addition to waiting one week to receive benefits. West Virginia state code mirrors these federal requirements.
On March 19, Gov. Justice issued an executive order waiving the one-week waiting period for benefits and requirements that claimants be able and available to work as well as search and actively seeking work requirements, making it easier for struggling West Virginians to receive needed unemployment benefits.
The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act provides Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) to individuals who normally aren’t eligible for regular unemployment compensation or extended benefits under state or federal law. This includes individuals who are self-employed or who have limited recent work history, certain gig economy workers, clergy and those working for religious organizations not covered by regular unemployment compensation.
The CARES Act requires West Virginia to fully review and vet these PUA applications to determine eligibility before paying benefits. WorkForce West Virginia is in the process of reviewing PUA claims and working with its vendor to expedite payment.
The following actions can impact eligibility:
Declining To Return to Work
Workers temporarily laid off because of COVID-19 must return to work if they are called back if they wish to remain eligible for unemployment benefits. Refusing to return to a job when there is available work and continuing to file unemployment claims can be considered fraud and potentially disqualify an individual from receiving benefits.
Quitting A Job Without Good Cause
Workers who quit a job without good cause are not eligible for unemployment benefits. If a workplace is operating during the COVID-19 pandemic, workers applying for unemployment benefits may be required to provide a doctor’s note when their claim is adjudicated. Under current laws, quitting a job due to fear of exposure to COVID-19 without advice from a health care provider is not considered good cause for quitting.
Declining Suitable Work
If an unemployed person is offered a comparable job with comparable wages and hours to their previous job but refuses to accept the offer, they will be disqualified from receiving benefits, under current law.
“Unemployment benefits are intended for people who are unemployed or working reduced hours due to no fault of their own,” said Adkins.
Benefits obtained through fraudulent means must be repaid. Other possible penalties for unemployment insurance fraud include losing eligibility to receive current and future benefits, forfeiting state and federal income tax refunds, criminal charges, jail time and felony or misdemeanor conviction.
Working Reduced Hours
Workers who are called back by their employer but work reduced hours may still qualify for unemployment benefits. These workers should continue to file weekly claims at and report all earnings. If a worker is earning more than their previous weekly benefit amount, they will not be eligible for benefits that week.
For more information about unemployment benefits, including federal pandemic relief programs provided by the CARES Act, visit workforcewv.org.