Rebound Idaho: Go back to work... or continue collecting benefits? Labor reps say there could be consequences to not returning

Posted at 8:15 PM, May 20, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-21 00:30:57-04

IDAHO — Every Idahoan who was laid off due to COVID-19 -- and who is subsequently collecting state benefits or federal assistance right now -- is making $600 dollars per week more than they typically would, as part of the federal government’s emergency aid.

And since Idaho is a state that operates on a federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour, it goes without saying that a number of workers in Idaho are likely making more of an income currently on unemployment benefits than they would if they were working.

But now that many Idaho businesses are reopening, the question becomes: will that affect their desire to go back to work?

“There [are] many employers that are concerned that the folks that they had to lay off temporarily because of the COVID virus are not going to return to work for them, because they are now receiving unemployment insurance benefits," said Leah Reeder, spokesperson, Idaho Department of Labor (IDOL).

After all, if you’re making more on benefits, where’s the incentive to return? Especially when a person factors in their possible health concerns. But what we’ve now learned is that not returning to work… could have its consequences.

“There is a potential that the claimant would no longer be eligible for benefits," said Reeder.

Reeder said IDOL representatives will obtain details from a claimant to find out whether their refusal to go back to work is for "good cause." She said they will look at each situation on a case-by-case basis, based on criteria like this:

  • What is the claimant’s reasoning for refusing work?
  • Is this based on concern or fact (for example, do others in the workplace have COVID-19)?
  • What does the employer have in place to keep them safe?
  • What are the claimant’s duties in relation to interacting with others?
  • Could they telework?

But no matter what the employer might suspect is the reason, Reeder advises that employers leave the investigating to them.

“Make sure that [employers have] really communicated clearly that they want the claimant to come back to work for them, and if the claimant does refuse to go back, to let us know so we can talk to the claimant about that," said Reeder.

Reeder said employers should email to report claimants who are refusing to go back to work.

Meanwhile, the extra $600 dollars per week emergency aid is set to run out at the end of July.

In Washington, House Democrats have proposed extending the aid through the end of the year, but according to the Washington Post, President Trump privately expressed opposition on Tuesday to extending this aid.

We will keep you updated.

For more findings on the revitalization of Idaho's economy, visit The Rebound page on our website.