Positive covid test might make you ineligible for unemployment benefit because you're not 'available for work'

SICK Americans who are struck down with Covid are ineligible to claim unemployment benefits – but there is a loophole.

Fuelled by the spread of the highly contagious Omicron variant, as well as the Delta strain, the number of people testing positive for the coronavirus is currently ballooning.

The seven-day average of daily new cases is more than 480,000, according to the Johns Hopkins University.

Recently, the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention reduced the isolation period for people without symptoms from 10 days to five.

Anyone who tests positive for Covid-19 and remains at home to isolate and recover is not eligible to claim jobless benefits, according to Michele Evermore, a senior policy advisor for unemployment insurance at the US Department of Labor.

Under the law, Americans must be “able and available” for work in order to claim assistance.

Those who have Covid do not meet this requirement, according to Evermore.

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″[Unemployment insurance] is not intended to be used as paid sick leave,” the Labor Department wrote to state workforce agencies, which administer benefits, in March 2020.

However, this hasn’t always been the case since the pandemic started.

The CARES Act relief law formed a temporary unemployment program offering jobless aid to sick individuals and others, such as gig workers, who typically don’t qualify for unemployment insurance.

The federal program, Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, came to an end on Labor Day.

Although the general rule is now those who test positive for Covid no longer qualify for jobless benefits, there is a loophole.

This is not necessarily true for people who isolate due to a potential Covid exposure and must miss work, Evermore said.

They may be able to claim benefits because they are technically able and available to work.

Vaccine effectiveness & Omicron

Expert studies have shown that the risk of severe illness from Covid-19 is reduced by 90 percent or more among people who are fully vaccinated.

While there are breakthrough cases of Covid among people who are vaccinated, they are rare.

In the event of a breakthrough case, victims are highly unlikely to be hospitalized with severe or deadly symptoms from the virus.

Health officials have advised that the Omicron variant is more infectious and could lead to further breakthrough cases.

Yet the spread can be offset by all vaccinated Americans receiving a booster shot.

Current vaccines are expected to protect against severe illness, hospitalizations, and deaths due to infection with the Omicron variant.

With other variants, like Delta, vaccines have remained effective at preventing severe illness, hospitalizations, and death.

Studies have also shown that side effects from the vaccine are extremely rare.

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

In the case of someone who works outside, such as a lumberjack or construction worker, who has to quarantine due to potentially being exposed to Covid, can technically work in an online job while they isolate.

They are able to work but not in their usual job.

“An individual may be quarantined or otherwise affected by Covid-19 but still eligible for [unemployment compensation], depending on state law,” according to the Labor Department memo.

Americans with Covid may get paid sick leave through their workplace and if this is the case they wouldn’t need to get unemployment benefits.

However, federal laws that temporarily increased the availability of paid leave earlier in the pandemic and now expired.

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