Some Wisconsinites Who Declined to Return to Unsafe Jobs Could Be Eligible for Federal UI Benefits

Tens of thousands of people in Wisconsin whose applications for COVID-19 pandemic unemployment benefits were denied could be eligible for up to 79 weeks of unemployment payments.

There are three main categories of newly eligible workers:

  • Those who declined to return to work at a site that wasn’t complying with COVID-19 safety standards, such as requiring face masks and physical distancing.
  • Those working for an educational institution who became unemployed or partially unemployed after COVID-19 scrambled workers’ schedules.
  • Those who were laid off or had their hours reduced as a result of COVID-19 measures, including restaurant workers.

Officials with the state Department of Workforce Development said they would be mailing notices to nearly 28,000 people who were denied benefits under the federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program to let them know they are eligible to reapply under the expanded guidelines. If they were denied before but found to be eligible now, they could be paid for the entire period of the pandemic thus far.

The Biden administration announced expanded eligibility for the federal program in February after President Joe Biden in an executive order said workers whose employers didn’t follow safety protocols could get the benefits. The Wednesday announcement by DWD follows from that executive order and guidance from Biden’s Department of Labor.

Wisconsinites who weren’t previously denied federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance can also apply under the expanded eligibility. However, they’ll be limited in the number of weeks of back payments they can claim.