Q: With all the layoff activity taking place due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many are asking “how much does a laid off worker get in unemployment benefits?”

The actual amount of weekly unemployment benefits a laid off employee may receive is determined at the time of filing for benefits.

It’s a somewhat complicated calculation based on the individual’s employment history and wages reported to the Connecticut Department of Labor over the course of recent months.

We advise against attempting to inform an employee of the precise amount they may be eligible for.

However, if characterized as a rough estimate, it’s safe to suggest it’s typically about 50% of past earnings, subject to the statutory maximum weekly amount of $649.

When doing the math, that calculates as follows:

Someone paid at or above $1,300 a week, or $32.50 an hour for a 40 hour week, or the equivalent of $67,600 yearly, would receive no more than the maximum unemployment amount of $649 a week in benefits.

An employee paid less than these amounts would receive approximately 50% of their past average weekly wage.

Q: Many employers are looking for ways to keep employees’ wage level whole, at least for a while.

One approach considered is to supplement unemployment benefits with salary continuation or using employees’ earned, unused PTO to make up the difference between their regular weekly wage and the lesser unemployment benefit amount–would that work?

A: Probably not. Under the current law, the weekly benefit amount is reduced if the employee receives any wages for the week when unemployment benefits are claimed. Part-time wages, bonuses, or tips must be reported when earned, not when paid.

An otherwise eligible unemployment claimant’s weekly benefit amount is reduced by two-thirds of the weekly gross earnings. 

An unemployment claimant’s failure to report wages attributable to a week when benefits are claimed could be prosecuted for fraud.

For more information, contact CBIA's Mark Soycher (860.244.1900) | @HRHotline

Filed Under: Coronavirus, HR Hotline, Unemployment Compensation, Wage & Hour
  • Linda Stamm

    Is there a difference between a furlough or the shared work program offered by the State of CT? What is the most economically viable option for small non-essential businesses that plans to bring employees back full time but cannot keep them employed during the executive order?

    • CBIANews

      Layoff” and “furlough” are often used interchangeably, or with intent to mean different things, but just what that difference is is often unclear. “Layoff” is typically used when the separation from employment is intended/expected to be permanent, or long term. “Furlough” is often used when it’s expected to be a short-term interruption in work of a few weeks, or even months, but there’s an expectation of rehire.

      Other elements of a furlough may include preservation of seniority, PTO accruals, and some assistance with group benefits premiums, continuing coverage with the employer contributing the same active employee rate, more or less. In some cases, employers are paying the full premium with no expectation of employee contribution, or an understanding that the employee contribution will be made up with an increased payroll deduction upon rehire.

      For unemployment eligibility purposes, using the terms layoff or furlough doesn’t matter, as unemployment benefits are awarded in lack of work situations such as these, and the state is being more liberal in this COVID-19 context, awarding benefits even where someone is not “available for work,” commonly the case here. Many workers are absent for their own health purposes, monitoring one’s health, or home with a child whose school is closed, all of which in the past would have disqualified the employee from unemployment because they’re not available for work.

      The CT Labor Department’s Shared Work Program has proven to be an effective strategy to get through a period of reduced work/hours while maximizing employee income via wage for time worked supplemented by shared work unemployment benefits. When no work is available at all, full unemployment benefits may be the most suited financial safety net.

      The above comments relative to sources of income replacement when no work is available assumes affected employees can’t work because a government order prevent work, or a company shutdown for other reasons.

      A complicating factor on the immediate horizon is the new federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act, just signed into law this past week with an April 2 effective date. While we are still digesting the fine points of this expansion of the federal FMLA law, workers will be entitled to new job protected leave time and pay for some of that leave time when their absence is (1) due to childcare responsibilities because of school or childcare facilities closings, or (2) when unable to work because the employee or someone they caring for is subject to a governmental quarantine or isolation order, has been advised by a healthcare provider to self-quarantine, or is experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 and is seeking a medical diagnosis.

      In these paid leave situations covered by this new law, unemployment benefits will take a back seat until all mandated paid leave is exhausted. The one bright spot to the obligation to continue wages under these paid leave mandates is that employers will be able to recover the costs via tax credits, assuming there are further payrolls that include payroll taxes to recover.