Feds say fear of COVID-19 a legit excuse for unemployment

By , NewsRadio 1080 KRLD

As the pandemic has continued, some individuals said they felt it was not safe to return to work because of the threat of COVID-19. Now, the federal government is responding to those concerns.

According to a U.S. Census Bureau survey conducted earlier this month, about five million Americans said they remain out of work because they are worried about spreading or contracting the coronavirus. Previously, many of those individuals were denied federal jobless benefits.

New guidance issued Thursday by the Labor Department expands eligibility for unemployment benefits, including for those who have been denied over concerns of an "unsafe" working environment.

As reported by Bloomberg, the federal government defines an "unsafe" environment as one not in compliance with local, state or national health standards regarding mask wearing, physical distancing and other protocols.

The latest guidance expands the existing Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program, which was established in March. The new rules are retroactive, giving affected workers the ability to backdate their claims to when the program began.

Bloomberg Correspondent Olivia Rockeman talked with KRLD's Chris Sommer.

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