MN Unemployment: Commonly Asked Questions From Members and Answer

Q:  Should I apply for unemployment benefits this summer?

A: We’ve asked Minnesota’s Unemployment Compensation office this question many times.  The response we receive is always:  “We don’t know. Have them apply.”

Q:  Am I eligible for unemployment this summer even though I have never been eligible in a past summer?

A:  COVID-19 could impact school and staffing for next year. Districts are planning for several models for educating students next fall: traditional face-to-face, hybrid (some face-to-face and some distance learning) and continued distance learning. Districts just do not know at this time.  While we know what staffing is in the traditional model, we do not know what staffing will look like in a hybrid and distance learning model.  Staffing changes could vary from one type of work to another:  how many Paras will be needed?  Bus drivers?  Nutrition services?  Custodians?  Secretaries?

There are changes to unemployment as a result of COVID-19 and possibly how “reasonable assurance” is applied in a pandemic.  “Reasonable assurance” – 2 words in current law , are the reason you have not been able to collect unemployment in the past over the summer.  “Reasonable assurance” has meant that it was assumed you would return to work in the fall semester and so could not receive unemployment over the summer months in the past.  However, States are able to determine how these 2 words (“reasonable assurance”) are applied as a result of COVID-19 for non-professional (sorry their words not ours) hourly employees.  *See Unemployment Insurance Program Letter NO. 10-20 Change 1, page 5, #4 c and d.

On Department of Labor (DOL) webinar on this point their response is “we don’t know; have them apply”.

Q:  What is this “retroactive unemployment compensation” that I’ve been hearing about?

A:  Minnesota’s law has a quirk in it for public school employees.  Normally, you would be denied unemployment for the summer months because it’s assumed, you’ll be working for the school in the fall.  But, if you are denied unemployment and then end up not working for the school district in the fall, you might be able to receive unemployment compensation back to the date you first applied for unemployment.  That’s why it’s important to apply now and let Unemployment Compensation sort it out.

Q:  I’ve worked Summer School for several years and this year this work is not available.  Am I eligible for unemployment because of this?

A:  On Department of Labor (DOL) webinar on this point their response is “we don’t know; have them apply and we will figure it out”.

Q:  I am still working 10 hours a week and provide one of the following services; summer meals, meal delivery, childcare or education support.  Will I be eligible for unemployment?

A:  Again, we don’t have a yes or no answer as the DOL’s response generally is “we don’t know; have them apply and we will figure it out”.

Things to consider:  Have you normally worked summer school in the past and received significantly more hours (i.e. 30 hours per week instead of 10), that could make a difference.  We don’t know!  The DOL say “we don’t know; have them apply and we will figure it out”.

You’ve normally not worked but because of COVID-19 the Food Program and/or Childcare program is continuing in June should I apply?  Our recommendation would be to apply if you are working substantially less than your normal school hours (reduced more than 50%).  We do NOT know if you will be found eligible but, we do know COVID-19 has expanded eligibility.  If you don’t apply in any week you will not eligible for unemployment for that week later.

Q:  The District contributes or pays my health insurance and/or other insurance premiums during the summer?  Will I lose my insurance benefit if I apply for insurance and/or do I have to report the District’s insurance contribution as income?

A:  Filing for unemployment does not impact your insurance benefits and insurance contributions are not considered income for purposes of unemployment.  Remember that filing for unemployment now is about protecting your right to receive retroactive unemployment benefits if the school district ends up not bringing you back to work in the fall (or to actually receive unemployment over the summer if your normal hours have been reduced).  Therefore, all your benefits are protected under the contract, including health insurance.

Q:  One of the questions you will respond to when registering for unemployment for the first time is a union related question-our union is not listed select “other”.

A:  We believe this question is to assist MN Unemployment staff to know if you are in a Building Trade Union that connects members to employers and future work.

Q:  How long does it take to apply/submit an unemployment claim and apply/file a claim weekly?

A:  The first time takes a while (could be an hour or more) as you have to set up an account and answer a significant number of questions.

Weekly claims after that:  This is quick.  You answer 4 question and the same 4 questions each week after your initial filing.

Q:  Do I have to look for work if I’m going to apply for unemployment?

A:  In order to apply for unemployment there is an expectation that you are looking for work (online, in the newspaper and so on).  Generally, that is similar work and there is no expectation you take a position that pays significantly less.

Q:  Do I have to file for unemployment every week even if I’m denied?

A:  For any week you intend to be potentially eligible for unemployment you must apply (even if you are denied many times).  Unemployment compensation is only available for the weeks you actually file a claim (including any possible retroactive payment if the school district doesn’t return you to work in the fall).

Q:  I’ve been denied unemployment and their letter says I can appeal. What should I do?

A:  For any week you intend to be potentially eligible for unemployment you must follow all the steps in the process (even if you are denied many times).  This includes responding to all communication they send you.

 

Q:  Are we considered “seasonal” employees?

A:  No, school employees are not seasonal, as per PELRA Law.

Q:  For the reason I am filing options are; termination, quit, layoff, seasonal or COVID-19.

A:  COVID-19 would be the reason given.  No one knows what late summer/fall will bring as it relates to COVID-19 or how schools will provide education as a result of this.

Q:  I received my Unemployment Compensation check. Should I feel free to spend it or should I save it?

A:  Out of an abundance of caution, we are recommending that you do not immediately spend the funds you receive from unemployment compensation. These are unique times and it’s possible that Unemployment is trying to speed up the process of issuing unemployment checks.  If that’s the case, it’s also possible that Unemployment’s review of applications will take place after the first checks have been issued to a person.  If Unemployment later decides that you are not eligible for unemployment, you will need to pay the funds back.  Therefore, we recommend setting the funds aside until any determination process is completed.

As your union we are providing you with the information we have and will update information on our website as we receive additional information.  It’s up to you to decide if you want to apply for unemployment benefits.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION:

MN Unemployment and COVID 19

DOL – UI Guidance on Between Terms

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