Unemployed during COVID-19 outbreak? We have the most common questions answered

Officials answer the most common questions many people are asking right now.

MADISON, Wis.– Business closings and layoffs are increasing every day from the COVID-19 pandemic. The constant closures and shut downs have left thousands worried about their finances.

Caleb Frostman, secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development urges employers, “If you have to lay off workers, please encourage your employees to apply for unemployment insurance as soon as possible.”

Frostman said people who are out of work through no fault of their own or are eligible to work can receive unemployment benefits. Typically, those benefits take about a week to begin. But Frostman said the state is working on implementing an emergency waiver so that people who live paycheck to paycheck don’t have to wait that long.

Frostman also encouraged employers to consider keeping employees on the payroll and not lay people off. Frostman asked for employers to first consider reducing work hours or coming up with projects for them to work on at home so that the employees can apply for workshare benefits and still keep their insurance.

Employees who are laid off can go through the Department of Health Services and apply for medicaid or can go through a private insurance company to get the coverage they need.

Frostman said those who apply for work share benefits should expect to receive no more than $370 a week at maximum based on the work they’re currently doing and their experience in the workforce.

Missy Hughes, CEO of Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation, said state and federal agencies are working to secure financial aid for small businesses that are losing money, can’t pay rent or employees right now. Hughes said President Donald Trump has tapped into a $50 millon loan that triggers the efforts of the FDA to lend money where it’s needed.

“We expect within the next 48 hours or so that the FDA will have resources available for businesses to apply for small business administration, economic injury and loans,” Hughes said.  “Those loans are typically $2 million or less. They’re often long term, even 30 year loans with low interest and they are available to employers with 500 employees or less.”

For the extremely vulnerable small businesses that have a small working staff, Hughes said a $5 million grant has become available through federal means that will provide, “A maximum of $20,000 for two months worth of expenses, so things like payroll or rent. We are going to help small businesses link or bridge between now and when they might be able to access federal loans or when unemployment becomes available for their workers.”

Deputy Secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Health Services Julie Williams Van Dijk said if someone in your workplace tests positive, you do not have to shut down the entire office or business, although social distancing rules are encouraged. Dijk said when someone in a workplace tests positive, the Department of Public Health will contact the place of business and ask the employees who were in direct contact with the employee who tested positive to self-isolate.

Hughes said the state is still working to pull even more resources than the ones they’ve already secured to help the struggling businesses in the short term and long term.

If you still have questions about unemployment benefits, the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development has answers to commonly asked questions here.

To apply for unemployment, follow this link.