Gov. Reynolds begins phased-opening of Iowa economy; Workforce Development issues guidance on unemployment benefits

posted in: Industry Advocacy, Safety | 0

In our effort to continue to provide MBI members with the most up to date information on issues pertaining to COVID-19 in the construction industry, we are continuously updating our MBI Blog. MBI compiled a list of guidance and informational websites for your team to review. This site will serve as our main communication link throughout the COVID-19 crisis and will include all new information going forward. Also, AGC of America has offered additional information on their site. Again, it is recommended that you reference this site often as it is being continuously updated: https://www.agc.org/coronavirus-covid-19

Gov. Reynolds Begins a Phased-Opening of Iowa Economy

Gov. Kim Reynolds has announced that she will relax certain COVID-19 restrictions in 77 of Iowa’s 99 counties beginning Friday, May 1.  In addition, spiritual and religious services will be allowed to resume beginning Friday, May 1 in ALL 99 counties, provided they adhere to social distancing practices.  To view the new proclamation on the State’s Public Health Emergency Declaration, please visit the Governor’s website here.

Iowa Workforce Development Announces Guidance on Unemployment Benefits: Iowans Who Refuse to Return to Work Without Good Reason When Recalled Will Lose Eligibility to Unemployment Benefits

Iowans who have been placed on a temporary layoff related to COVID-19 but refuse to return to work when recalled by their employer will lose unemployment benefits, except for certain circumstances including:

  • If you have tested positive for COVID-19 and are experiencing symptoms;
  • If you have recovered but it caused medical complications rendering you unable to perform essential job duties;
  • If a member of your household has been diagnosed with COVID-19;
  • If you are providing care for a member of your household who was diagnosed with COVID-19;
  • If you do not have childcare due to COVID-19 reasons; or
  • If you do not have transportation to your place of work because of COVID-19.

Employees in any of these positions are strongly encouraged to work with their employer in the best way to handle the situation to return to work.
Refusing to return to work when recalled for any other reason, or in an attempt to continue to draw unemployment benefits will be considered a “voluntary quit” which would disqualify a claimant from receiving benefits, including the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation benefit of $600/weekly.  An employee who is recalled on a part-time basis may continue to be eligible for benefits depending on the amount of wages they earn. They should continue filing their weekly claims and report the gross wages they earned each week.  Additionally, the self-employed should continue to report their weekly gross income as part of their continuing claims as they return to work.

“The additional unemployment benefits that are provided under the CARES Act are meant to be temporary in nature and bridge the gap between the outbreak and a return to normal,” said Director Beth Townsend, Iowa Workforce Development. “For Iowans whose employment may be permanently affected by the outbreak, we have many training opportunities under Future Ready Iowa to help them obtain training and begin a new career in a high-demand, high-paying job.”
Businesses should report employees who refuse to return to work without good reason or who quit their jobs as soon as possible to IWD at https://www.iowaworkforcedevelopment.gov/job-offer-decline-form-employers

While an employee may have temporarily earned more in benefits than they earn in wages, the CARES Act outlines serious consequences for fraud, including fines, confinement and ineligibility for future unemployment benefits until all fraudulent claims and fines have been repaid should an individual continue to claim benefits they are not otherwise eligible for because of a change in their employment situation.

For more information, please visit www.iowaworkforcedevelopment.gov

ICYMI: USDOL Issues Alert to Help Keep  Construction Workers Safe During the Coronavirus Pandemic

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has issued an alert listing safety tips employers can follow to help protect construction workers from exposure to the coronavirus.

Measures that can help protect employees working in construction include:

  • Encouraging workers to stay home if they are sick;
  • Training workers how to properly put on, use/wear, and take off protective clothing and equipment;
  • Allowing workers to wear masks over their nose and mouth to prevent them from spreading the virus;
  • Continuing to use other normal control measures, including personal protective equipment, necessary to protect workers from other job hazards associated with construction activities;
  • Advising workers to avoid physical contact with others and directing employees/contractors/visitors to increase personal space to at least six feet, where possible. Where work trailers are used, all workers should maintain social distancing while inside the trailers;
  • Promoting personal hygiene. If workers do not have immediate access to soap and water for handwashing, provide alcohol-based hand rubs containing at least 60 percent alcohol;
  • Using Environmental Protection Agency-approved cleaning chemicals from List N or that have label claims against the coronavirus; and
  • Encouraging workers to report any safety and health concerns.

The new alert is available for download in English and Spanish.

Visit OSHA’s Publications webpage for other useful workplace safety information.

The alert is the latest effort by OSHA to educate and protect America’s workers and employers during the coronavirus pandemic. OSHA has also published Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19, a document aimed at helping workers and employers learn about ways to protect themselves and their workplaces during the ongoing pandemic.

Visit OSHA’s COVID-19 webpage frequently for updates. For further information about the coronavirus, please visit the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA’s role is to help ensure these conditions for America’s working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance. For more information, visit www.osha.gov.

The mission of the Department of Labor is to foster, promote and develop the welfare of the wage earners, job seekers and retirees of the United States; improve working conditions; advance opportunities for profitable employment; and assure work-related benefits and rights.

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