Unemployment benefits expand, to cover COVID-19 layoffs

Employees out-of-work due to COVID-19 qualify
March 19, 2020

After ordering restaurants and bars to close except for carryout in an effort to limit COVID-19, state officials are taking measures to ensure employees now unable to work can receive unemployment benefits within a week.

New guidelines were announced March 17 make the state's unemployment insurance program more flexible for workers who would not typically qualify for benefits.

“We're trying to be prepared for workers being laid off or not being paid so they can pay their mortgage or rent or whatever the case may be,” said Gov. John Carney during a town hall meeting.

The new unemployment insurance guidelines are as follows:

• Workers will be eligible to receive unemployment benefits if an employer needs to curtail or shut down operations temporarily because of the governor's state of emergency declaration on the coronavirus outbreak.

• A worker who has been ordered by a medical doctor to self-quarantine as a result of COVID-19 symptoms or risk of exposure will be eligible to receive unemployment benefits.

• Parents or guardians who have been forced to quit or take unpaid leave to care for children because of the emergency closure of schools will be eligible for benefits.

• Workers who have been forced to quit or take unpaid leave to care for a loved one who has contracted COVID-19 will be eligible for benefits.

• If a worker falls ill to COVID-19 and is unable to work, they may be eligible for unemployment benefits.

Carney said part-time employees will be allowed to collect benefits as long as they can demonstrate their decreased hours and earnings.
 The Department of Labor also will not classify tipped employees as minimum wage earners as long as their tips are reported as wages, Carney said.

Citizens applying for unemployment benefits typically must submit a weekly work search, which will be expanded to include a wide variety of activities, officials said. 

Carney said he expects claims to be processed and available within a week. 

Although offices are closed to the public, citizens can file for unemployment benefits online at

Carney said he expects COVID-19 will eventually spread into the community with no clear source.

So far 30 people have tested positive for COVID-19 in Delaware. Twenty-three are in New Castle County and seven of them had connections to the University of Delaware. Six of the people testing positive had traveled to New Jersey together where they were exposed, Carney said. Kent County has four cases and Sussex County has three.

Throughout the state, hundreds of people who showed symptoms of fever, and/or a cough with shortness of breath have been tested. Carney expanded his emergency order March 16 to limit crowds to 50 and close eateries except for takeout and delivery.

Carney said he sees no reason to close other establishment such as salons and liquor stores, because those places usually don’t have large crowds. “I was in a liquor store the other day, and there were a lot of people in there, so it's something we'll have to keep our eye on,” he said.

Carney closed public schools March 16-27 and said a task force is discussing the possibility of students learning at home.

For more information on unemployment insurance, email or call 302-761-8446.


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