By Greg Peterson | Tanner Gilliland | WPMI
More than 26 million Americans have now filed for unemployment benefits.
In just the last four weeks, the labor force has lost more than 22 million jobs due to coronavirus shutdowns.
Here in Alabama, three times as many people filed for unemployment last month than all of last year.
But what happens when the jobs return?
As we inch closer to the reopening of the state, Alabama’s Labor Secretary Fitzgerald Washington made it clear today: Unemployment benefits are for those who cannot find work.
“If you refuse to come back to work when the employer ramps up the operation, the employer’s responsibility, again, is to let us know,” Washington said.
For some Alabamians, receiving unemployment benefits has been better than expected. People can receive up to $275 dollars each week, plus another $600 each week from the Federal Cares Act program. That adds up to $875 dollars weekly, which is about 3 times greater than the income of someone earning minimum wage.
But when those workers are asked to come back to their previous jobs, there are serious repercussions if they refuse and try to keep cashing those unemployment checks.
“The Care’s Act specifically provides serious consequences for fraud cases, including fines and confinement. All fraudulent claims have to be repaid,” Washington said.
The Department of Labor is putting the responsibility of compliance on both the shoulders of employers and their workers.
“Yes, it is a very serious act. If someone frauds our program, they will be held liable for those overpays,” Washington said.
The Department of Labor encourages employers to us the “new hire system” to report those employees who fail to return to work.