Gov. Brad Little announced relief measures on March 27 for those facing unemployment as the result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
During a press conference at the Capitol’s Lincoln Auditorium, Little signed a proclamation to ease the requirements for applying for unemployment benefits. He also announced steps to enable the state’s immediate purchase of critical emergency supplies while avoiding tax increases to make up for any revenue shortfalls.
“Today I am signing a proclamation to help Idahoans who are temporarily unable to work through no fault of their own because of illness, quarantine, lay-offs or reduction of work related to coronavirus. The Idaho Department of Labor announced yesterday (March 26) that 13,341 new claims were filed for unemployment insurance benefits for Idaho workers laid-off due to coronavirus. That was up 12,300 from the previous week for a 1200% increase in just a matter of days.”
The proclamation directed the Idaho Department of Labor to take several measures:
- Waive the one-week waiting period for all applicants who are otherwise eligible
- Consider claimants as job-attached if they have been laid-off due to COVID-19-related reasons
- Allow claimants to meet the available-for-work criteria if they are isolated and unavailable to work at the request of a medical professional, their employer, public health district or local or state government and will be returning to work for their employer
- Extend the normal 14-day period in which to appeal claim decisions for both employees and employers by an additional 14 days
- Not to charge businesses that pay a quarterly unemployment tax when employees are laid off due to the COVID-19 virus
Idaho’s ability to process unemployment claims is currently at maximum capacity. Many people calling the Department of Labor regarding claims have had their calls timed-out and dropped after being on the line for 55 minutes. At the press conference, IDL Director Jani Revier acknowledged that the IDL phone lines and staff are operating at their limits. She encouraged everyone to use the IDL online claim portal and to avoid calling if at all possible.
Claims can also be filed at any Department of Labor office. In addition, IDL now has guidance on its website for those filing unemployment claims related to coronavirus in both English and Spanish.
Little also outlined how the federal coronavirus relief legislation will send approximately $1.25 billion Idaho’s way. The Governor thanked President Donald Trump and the U.S. Congress for getting the $2.2 trillion relief package passed.
In addition, Little announced that he moved $39.3 million by an executive order from the Tax Relief Fund to the state’s Disaster Emergency Account. The amount moved is the maximum allowed under state statute. Moving this money will make it immediately available for the quick purchase of badly needed personal protective equipment, ventilators, test kits and other critically-needed supplies for Idaho’s health care sector.
Little signed a second executive order to reduce non-coronavirus related general fund spending by 1% for this fiscal year. This measure will save the state approximately $40 million and help Idaho avoid raising taxes to cover costs incurred by the current crisis.
“The coronavirus situation has not only affected our daily lives and personal finances but the state’s finances as well,” Little said. “While the impact of the pandemic on state revenue collection is yet unknown, it is going to have a significant impact and we must do everything we can to ensure the state is positioned for long-term success. These actions are never easy, but I appreciate our agency directors and state employees who have done a tremendous job in managing through tough times and making sure we emerge stronger.”