Every Idahoan laid off due to COVID-19 — and is subsequently collecting state benefits or federal assistance right now — is making $600 dollars per week more than they typically would, as part of the federal government’s emergency aid.
And since Idaho is a state that operates on a federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour, a number of workers in Idaho are likely making more income currently on unemployment benefits than they would if they were working.
But now that many Idaho businesses are reopening, the question becomes: will that affect employees’ desire to go back to work?
“There [are] many employers that are concerned that the folks that they had to lay off temporarily because of the COVID virus are not going to return to work for them, because they are now receiving unemployment insurance benefits,” Idaho Department of Labor spokesperson Leah Reeder said.
After all, if you’re making more on benefits, where’s the incentive to return? Especially when a person factors in possible health concerns. But not returning to work could have consequences.
“There is a potential that the claimant would no longer be eligible for benefits,” Reeder said.
She said IDOL representatives will obtain details from a claimant to find out whether their refusal to go back to work is for “good cause.” She said they will look at each situation on a case-by-case basis, based on criteria like this:
- What is the claimant’s reasoning for refusing work?
- Is this based on concern or fact (for example, do others in the workplace have COVID-19)?
- What does the employer have in place to keep them safe?
- What are the claimant’s duties in relation to interacting with others?
- Could they telework?
No matter what the employer might suspect is the reason, Reeder advises employers to leave the investigating to IDOL.
“Make sure that [employers have] really communicated clearly that they want the claimant to come back to work for them, and if the claimant does refuse to go back, to let us know so we can talk to the claimant about that,” said Reeder.
Reeder said employers should email [email protected] to report claimants who refuse to go back to work.
Meanwhile, the extra $600 dollars per week emergency aid is set to run out at the end of July.
In Washington, DC House Democrats proposed extending the aid through the end of the year, but according to the Washington Post, President Trump privately expressed opposition on Tuesday to extending this aid.
We will keep you updated.
For more findings on the revitalization of Idaho’s economy, visit The Rebound page on KIVI’s website.