March 12, 2020

Van Hollen Joins Peters, Colleagues in Introducing Bill with Colleagues to Provide Unemployment Assistance to Those Affected by Coronavirus

U.S. Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) has joined Senate Homeland Security Committee Ranking Member Gary Peters (D-MI) and 22 colleagues in introducing the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Act to provide federally-funded unemployment assistance to individuals affected by the coronavirus outbreak.

“The coronavirus has already taken a serious toll on American jobs and our economy. We must immediately ensure help for those who have been impacted, so they can make rent, feed their families, and more,” said Senator Van Hollen. “This legislation will help lessen the economic harm of the pandemic on everyday working families, and we need to pass it now." 

“Michiganders forced to stay at home from work due to Coronavirus shouldn’t need to worry about being able to pay their bills or putting food on the table,” said Senator Peters. “We need to do everything possible to support workers and families during this challenging time. I’m pleased to help lead this effort to help ensure Michigan families can stay afloat financially during the coronavirus outbreak.” 

The bill would create a temporary unemployment compensation program to provide benefits to individuals unable to work because of coronavirus. Modeled on the Disaster Unemployment Assistance program, this new program would be tailored to help those affected by the pandemic. While Congress has provided temporary unemployment benefits in response to disasters, it has not previously provided benefits in response to a public health crisis.

The program will be particularly helpful for those without paid sick leave, and will cover self-employed workers and workers without sufficient work history to qualify for regular unemployment insurance.

Workers who would qualify for assistance under the program include:

  • Individuals who are sick or who have been exposed to coronavirus
  • Individuals who must care for someone who is sick with coronavirus
  • Individuals who cannot reach their place of work because of a quarantine
  • Individuals who need to self-quarantine to protect themselves from coronavirus
  • Individuals who must care for a child because of a school closure
  • Individuals who are working reduced hours due to coronavirus. (Individuals who have been laid off are covered by traditional unemployment assistance. While individuals who have had their hours cut by their employer generally qualify for traditional unemployment assistance, this proposal would ensure workers do not fall through the cracks if they are working reduced hours.)

Benefits and administrative costs associated with this program would be federally funded through the federal unemployment insurance trust funds. The program would be administered by state unemployment offices, and would end six months after the end of the pandemic.

The bill is also cosponsored by Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR), Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Jack Reed (D-RI), Patty Murray (D-WA), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Ed Markey (D-MA), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Jon Tester (D-MT), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Sherrod Brown, (D-OH), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Tammy Baldwin, (D-WI), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Cory Booker, (D-NJ), Bob Casey (D-PA), Jeanne Shaheen, (D-NH), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT).