Sen. Kaine co-sponsors bill that would provide unemployment assistance to those affected by COVID-19

Senator Kaine and other members of Congress are sponsoring a bill requiring employers to...
Senator Kaine and other members of Congress are sponsoring a bill requiring employers to provide paid sick leave. | Credit: WHSV(WHSV)
Published: Mar. 13, 2020 at 4:15 PM EDT
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As response to the COVID-19 novel coronavirus pandemic continues around the world, Senator Tim Kaine is joining several other Democrat senators to introduce a bill that would offer unemployment assistance to individuals who lose work due to the virus and associated effects.

Kaine is co-sponsoring the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Act, which the senator says would create a temporary unemployment compensation program to provide benefits to individuals who are unable to work because of the coronavirus.

“The spread of COVID-19 risks serious economic impacts on American workers and families, especially those who are financially insecure,” Kaine said. “This legislation provides a crucial safety net for anyone who may have to go without a paycheck, especially hourly workers and those without child care. I hope the Senate will quickly take up this legislation so hardworking families get the support they need during this difficult time.”

The proposed program is modeled on the Disaster Unemployment Assistance program and would be designed to help those affected by the ongoing pandemic.

While Congress has provided temporary unemployment benefits in response to disasters, it has not previously provided benefits in response to a public health crisis.

Kaine says it would be particularly helpful for those without paid sick leave and would cover self-employed workers and workers without sufficient work history to qualify for regular unemployment insurance.

Workers who would qualify for assistance under the program include:

• Individuals who are sick or who have been exposed to the coronavirus

• Individuals who must care for someone who is sick with the coronavirus

• Individuals who cannot reach their place of work because of a quarantine

• Individuals who need to self-quarantine to protect themselves from the coronavirus

• Individuals who must care for a child because of a school closure

• Individuals who are working reduced hours due to the coronavirus. (Individuals who have been laid off are covered by traditional unemployment assistance. While individuals who have had their hours cut by their employer generally qualify for traditional unemployment assistance, this proposal would ensure workers do not fall through the cracks if they are working reduced hours.)

Benefits and administrative costs associated with this program would be federally funded through the federal unemployment insurance trust funds. The program would be administered by state unemployment offices, and would end six months after the end of the pandemic.

The bill, led by Senators Gary Peters (D-MI), Ron Wyden (D-OR), and Chuck Schumer (D-NY), was also cosponsored by Jack Reed (D-RI), Patty Murray (D-WA), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Ed Markey (D-MA), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Jon Tester (D-MT), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Sherrod Brown, (D-OH), Tammy Baldwin, (D-WI), Chris Van Hollen, (D-MD), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Cory Booker, (D-NJ), Bob Casey (D-PA), Jeanne Shaheen, (D-NH), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT).