HUNTSVILLE, Ala. – The pandemic has caused people to worry about more than just their health. COVID-19 caused tremendous job loss in Alabama creating financial troubles for some families.
Thursday, the Alabama Department of Labor acknowledged there was false information about claim funding circulating.
“We think that there’s a miscommunication,” said Tara Hutchinson, Spokeswoman for ADOL.
Some claimants have stopped receiving benefits, and they believe that the state has simply run out of money to disburse.
But ADOL said that’s definitely not the case.
“The extended benefits program known as EB expired on October 3,” Hutchinson said. “When that happened, there were there were, you know, thousands of claimants who no longer had any benefits.”
EB is a federal program totally unrelated to the pandemic.
ADOL said it only gets activated when the state’s insured unemployment rate hits a certain threshold.
“So, you usually only see it during times of very high unemployment the last time Alabama was only beat was during the Great Recession,” said Hutchinson. “So, again, this is a federal program that is not coronavirus related it is just up to an additional 13 weeks that are provided.”
Since the extended benefits program has expired claimants who remain unemployed need to apply for other unemployment programs based on their employment history.
Hutchinson said there are options right now for almost everyone.
“So for those folks who rolled off of EB, what their options are going to be now are they can apply for Pandemic Unemployment Assisstance (PUA),” she said. “If their unemployment is pandemic related they can, they’re eligible to apply for PUA.”
The Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation program is another option which is simply a 13-week extension of benefits for pandemic-related employment changes.
Claimants can also extend their benefits by 5 weeks by opting into GED or job training through career centers in the state
“We have not run out of money,” Hutchinson said. “We absolutely have not run out of money, we still have money in the trust fund to pay those regular unemployment claims, there are still federal dollars available to pay claims under the under the programs that are still in effect.”
ADOL said while some of the programs have expired Congress can reactivate them or create new ones any time they want.
In the meantime, the department encourages claimants to read the program descriptions carefully and apply to programs they qualify for.