While Alaska reopens, Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development is working to get financial resources to Alaskans. (Peter Segall | Juneau Empire File)

While Alaska reopens, Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development is working to get financial resources to Alaskans. (Peter Segall | Juneau Empire File)

Opinion: Department of Labor is working to get financial resources out to workers impacted by COVID-19 as quickly as possible

I am confident that the adversity of COVID-19 will not break Alaska’s resolve.

  • Thursday, May 14, 2020 11:32am
  • Opinion

The impacts of COVID-19 on Alaskan businesses have been dramatic.

Since March, $164 million in unemployment insurance payments have gone out to approximately 54,000 Alaskans. Over 70,000 applications have been submitted, of which approximately 15,000 are self-employed applicants filing for the first time. In March, after the CARES Act was signed into law with coverage for the self-employed, we anticipated four to six weeks to full implementation of the new Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program. We are on target to meet this goal. A new online application for PUA went live last week, and payments to the self-employed are beginning to go out this week. Small business owners, gig economy workers and independent contractors who have experienced the economic downturn of COVID-19 will receive payments soon.

The PUA program requires income certification of 2019 income. Before applications can be processed, this important step must be completed. Applicants can email those documents to dol.pua@alaska.gov with “PUA Wage Proof” in the subject line. It is important for the new PUA applicants to file weekly certifications, in the same manner as traditional filers.

As of May 3, Alaskans who have exhausted regular UI benefits, will be eligible for up to 13 weeks of extended benefits. Those qualifying will be notified by mail of their eligibility. Extended benefits will precede Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation, a new program of the CARES Act, which will provide an extra 13 weeks of eligibility beyond the extended benefit period.

We have received many inquiries from employers concerned about getting employees back to work given the financial resources of the combined federal/state program. In the absence of good cause, employees refusing to go back to work will be ineligible for unemployment insurance benefits. Employers who experience this situation are encouraged to report to the department at uifraud@alaska.gov. Please include business name, contact information, a brief description of the activity, the person’s name and the last four digits of their social security number.

With cancellations anticipated throughout the 2020 tourism season, Alaskans are bracing for challenging times ahead. At the Department of Labor and Workforce Development we are doing everything we can to get financial resources out to workers impacted by COVID-19 as fast as possible.

Alaskans have overcome hardships in the past. I am confident that the adversity of COVID-19 will not break Alaska’s resolve and that we will emerge stronger to face with confidence new opportunities now and in the future.

Tamika L. Ledbetter is commissioner of the

Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development. Columns, My Turns and Letters to the Editor represent the view of the author, not the view of the Juneau Empire.

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