ST. LOUIS — Employers face a difficult spring season as the coronavirus pandemic forces many of them to close or reduce hours. The next few weeks are just as uncertain for their employees.
Some businesses have chosen to lay off their workers temporarily instead of struggling to pay them or forcing them to take unpaid leave. So, what does that mean for the region's workers who need to turn to unemployment benefits?
5 On Your Side got the following question from a viewer whose concerns are shared with many St. Louisans:
"I am a fleet service clerk (baggage handler) for American Airlines in St. Louis. I have been employed for 20 years, and with TWA. With COVID-19 I am uncertain on my job and if I will be employed in next days/weeks. Can a person apply for Missouri unemployment benefits?"
The Missouri Department of Labor said if you’re laid off because of a decrease in production due to coronavirus, you are eligible for unemployment benefits. But first, you have to meet certain criteria.
You must have worked for an employer who pays into the Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund. There are income requirements for the previous year that are outlined on the Missouri Department of Labor website.
And you have to do three “work search” activities every week: those can be job interviews, applications, workshops or job fairs.
You can apply as soon as you're separated from work. It can take about 22 days to get your first payment.
Some of those requirements do change if your employer furloughs you without pay and plans to bring you back to work in the next eight weeks. If you're temporarily laid off in Missouri, you can apply for unemployment benefits and get a waiver on the work search requirement.
You can find more details on unemployment benefits available to Missouri workers during the coronavirus pandemic on the Department of Labor website. That includes information on how employers can ensure partial unemployment benefits for workers if they have to cut hours because of the pandemic.
In Illinois, the Department of Employment Security says workers laid off or temporarily let go because of the coronavirus can qualify for unemployment benefits until their employer reopens.
Also, because schools are closed in Illinois until the end of the month, if you quit work because you need to care for a child you would be considered unemployed through no fault of your own and could be eligible for benefits if you meet certain requirements.
You might also be eligible if a doctor tells you that you need to stay home from work because you’re diagnosed with coronavirus or need to quarantine.
And if your workplace cuts hours due to the pandemic, you may also qualify for partial unemployment benefits. The Illinois Department of Employment Security has an online handbook with more information.
More coronavirus coverage:
- List of things closed, canceled in St. Louis area due to coronavirus concerns
- Everything we know about coronavirus in the St. Louis area
- Here's how you can help restaurants and small businesses directly during the coronavirus pandemic
- Gatherings of 10 people or more banned in St. Louis city and county
- VERIFY: What's the difference between 'quarantine,' 'isolation' and 'social distancing'?