U.S. Representatives John Rutherford (R-FL 4th District), Derek Kilmer (D-Washington), and Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-Washington) have introduced legislation that would provide disaster unemployment assistance to people who can’t work due to the coronavirus outbreak.
“Nobody should have to decide between financial ruin or properly quarantining themselves because of this virus. We want folks, if they’re sick, to stay at home,” Rep. Rutherford said.
Rutherford said he understands staying at home is a financial burden for a lot of people, which is why he joined representatives Kilmer and Beutler to introduce H.R. 6207, known as the Coronavirus Worker Relief Act, on Wednesday night. The legislation would expand the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) Disaster Unemployment Program, making people impacted by the coronavirus eligible for benefits.
If President Donald Trump declares a state of emergency for a state, the bill would provide access to disaster unemployment assistance for workers in that state, waive state waiting periods and work-search requirements to help workers get aid as soon as possible, and set an aid minimum equivalent to the weekly amount authorized under state unemployment compensation laws. The bill would also require the federal government to help states administer all of this unemployment assistance.
“Across the country, we’re already seeing an impact on the financial well-being of individuals and families, local employers, and the entire economy,” said Rep. Kilmer. “By introducing the bipartisan, bicameral Coronavirus Worker Relief Act, we’re taking action to help workers who could face unexpected challenges and economic hardship due to COVID-19 and related containment efforts. At a time like this, providing income security to those who need it most is vitally important.”
People in areas where an emergency is declared for the coronavirus will be eligible for unemployment assistance under this legislation if:
- They have experienced a week of unemployment in the area with an active emergency declaration as a result of the coronavirus
- They have good cause to voluntarily reduce regular work hours or refuse a job offer, or in the case of an unemployed self-employed person they refuse to resume or begin self-employment due to illness or incapacity, a family crisis, or circumstances in the area where an emergency has been declared due to the coronavirus
- They can’t work due to a federal, state, tribal, or local government response to the coronavirus
U.S. Senators Brian Schatz (D-Hawai’i), Todd Young (R-Indiana), Mitt Romney (R-Utah), Mazie K. Hirono (D-Hawai’i), and Gary Peters (D-Michigan) have introduced companion legislation in the Senate.