Why some are losing their unemployment by returning to work part time

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SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC4 News) – As Utah’s economy starts to open back up, employers are attempting to bring back employees but some only at part-time hours. For many, this means also losing their unemployment at the same time.

The unemployment policies have always been the same, once you return to work and you report your weekly income, if the amount you made was higher than your weekly benefit, you would not receive a payment for that week.

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With the new pandemic unemployment, however, it has become especially difficult for those wanting to accept part-time work but the pay is not enough to support their families. Accepting part-time work that pays more than their weekly amount, would mean an additional $2400 per month loss in pandemic funds.

Related: Utah Unemployment: What to expect when you return to work

Right now, each recipient of unemployment receives a weekly benefit (approximately 40-50% of their full-time wages). For example, someone who makes $2500 (approx $15 an hour) per month would be receiving somewhere around $300 a week. Due to COVID-19, they also receive an extra pandemic payment of $600 through federal funding.

If their employer asks them to come back to work at 20 hours a week, they would make around $300 for each week they work. If they file they made $300 for that week with unemployment, they would lose the entire $900 payment and be forced to support their family on the part-time wages.

Related: Here is why Utahns are still waiting on Pandemic Unemployment checks

Brooke Coles, with the Department of Workforce Services, said it is important to remember that the unemployment insurance benefits are reflective of the eligible earnings someone was making prior to becoming unemployed and was never designed to be a full replacement wage.

“It is also important to note that the unemployment benefit is temporary, and even more temporary is the $600 stimulus,” said Coles. “Someone eligible for $250 a week was making approximately $12 an hour prior to the loss of employment (25 hours a week). It is not a return to full-time work and the loss of the $600 stimulus would no doubt be difficult.”

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Coles said she has tried to explain this to both employees and employers as the economy starts to open back up. Recipients can make up to just a dollar less than their weekly benefit and still qualify for the $600 extra payment but once they hit that amount or go over, they lose it.

Coles wants to remind people that unemployment insurance is not the only benefit available to those that see a loss of income. 

“Workforce Services also offers applications for SNAP (Food Stamps), medical, child care, HEAT, and housing,” said Coles. “So while someone transitions back to full time work and off of unemployment, we would encourage them to consider these programs that could certainly help cover some of those critical expenses while they continue to work back to full time hours.”

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