COVID-19: The Sneaky Line in the CARES Act That Affects Teleworkers

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There is a provision of the CARES Act that seems to suggest that teleworkers may not qualify for relief. Lynnette explains why this interpretation is incorrect.


Lynnette Khalfani‑Cox:  Have you read the 880‑page CARES Act that was passed by Congress in March 2020? Chances are you haven’t, but I did, all 880 pages. Guess what. Tucked away on page 88 is a troubling little provision in there, just a one‑liner that references unemployment insurance.

What is this tricky little line that’s buried away in there? It’s something that basically says that you’re not eligible for unemployment compensation if you are an individual who can telework with pay. When I read this I thought wait a minute. Almost everybody’s teleworking, or working remotely, or working from home right now because of the COVID‑19 outbreak and the coronavirus crisis. What gives?

I don’t want you to be alarmed by this, and I want you to understand that this is a little bit of nuanced here and, I think, maybe a little poorly written in the language there because there’s other aspects of the CARES Act that are very clear about who qualifies for unemployment compensation.

First off, you have to think maybe you are in fact teleworking from home, but you still can get unemployment pay if a, your hours have been reduced, or b, you’ve been furloughed, or c, your pay itself has been reduced because of COVID‑19. If that’s the case, you definitely qualify for unemployment benefits.

Also, some of you might be in the situation where yes, you’re teleworking but some other factors have come into play, and so you don’t make the same amount of money. This could be the case if you’re an entrepreneur, a contractor, a self‑employed person. Your business income is down. Yes, you’re teleworking still, but still your business income is substantially down. You too qualify for unemployment compensation.

Again, if you come across that, if you hear about it or read any articles about it, or see that written somewhere, just understand there’s a little bit of nuances there, but I want you to apply for every single benefit to which you are entitled during this coronavirus crisis. That includes unemployment compensation when you truly should and do deserve to get those benefits.

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