You depend upon your employees as much as they depend upon you. Here is some information about how to take care of your business’s most valuable asset.
Consumer Loan Guarantee Program
- For sole proprietors, independent contractors, and individuals
- Low-to-no-interest loans for eligible “affected employees” and sole proprietors who are Maine residents and have been negatively affected by the COVID-19 virus
- Can borrow up to $5,000 three times (for a total of $15,000)
- Lending institutions (banks and credit unions) are working with FAME to provide these loans; not all institutions are ready to employ this program immediately, and we encourage you to reach out to your lending institution to inquire about this program
- See Fact Sheet for more information
Unemployment Benefit Info
- New legislation benefits individuals laid off due to COVID-19
- Case-by-case decisions made; Department of Labor encouraging all to apply
- Unemployment waiting period waived
- Not required to seek alternative employment (in the case of temporary layoff)
- Regional Career Centers to provide online and phone services for finding new jobs (in the case of permanent layoff)
- When filing, click on layoff as the reason (COVID-19 isn’t an option)
- Unemployment claims can be filed online. Claimants do not need to do anything special for claims related to COVID-19.
- For more information: view fact sheet (as of March 19, 2020), visit the Maine.gov Unemployment page, or submit questions to Maine Department of Labor staff.
Encourage sick employees to stay at home
- Employees who have symptoms of acute respiratory illness are recommended to stay home and not come to work until they are free of fever (100.4° F [38.0° C] or greater using an oral thermometer), signs of a fever, and any other symptoms for at least 24 hours, without the use of fever-reducing or other symptom-altering medicines (e.g. cough suppressants). Employees should notify their supervisor and stay home if they are sick.
- Ensure that your sick leave policies are flexible and consistent with public health guidance and that employees are aware of these policies.
- Talk with companies that provide your business with contract or temporary employees about the importance of sick employees staying home and encourage them to develop non-punitive leave policies.
- Do not require a healthcare provider’s note for employees who are sick with acute respiratory illness to validate their illness or to return to work, as healthcare provider offices and medical facilities may be extremely busy and not able to provide such documentation in a timely way.
- Employers should maintain flexible policies that permit employees to stay home to care for a sick family member. Employers should be aware that more employees may need to stay at home to care for sick children or other sick family members than is usual. (Source: US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
Encourage all employees to practice good hygiene
- Encourage them to wash their hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds especially after they’ve been in a public place, or after blowing their nose, coughing, or sneezing.
- If soap and water are not readily available, encourage employees to use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. Cover all surfaces of their hands and rub them together until they feel dry.
- Make sure employees understand that it’s important to avoid touching their eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands. (Source: US Center For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC))
Encourage your employees to avoid public gatherings
Reducing the infection rate of COVID-19, referred to as “flattening the curve,” will be achieved by exercising “social distancing” — reducing the number of large gatherings and by maintaining at least six feet of distance between individuals.
Recently, Gov. Janet Mills has prohibited public gatherings of more than 10 people. Also, Gov. Mills has ordered restaurants and bars to close their dine-in facilities. (Source: Gov. Janet Mills, 3/18/2020). With these parameters in mind, advise your employees to use common sense when they are out and about.
Legislation was passed this week to make our Unemployment Insurance system more flexible for both employees and employers. The Maine Department of Labor also has a webpage dedicated to COVID-19 response information.
- For employees: The usual one week waiting period for eligibility will be waived in the event of a Covid-19 related layoff.
- For employers: Layoffs associated with Covid-19 will not count against an employer’s experience rating for UI tax purposes.
FAQs for Employees:
Q. What if I am asked by a medical professional or public health official to quarantine as a result of COVID-19, but I am not sick?
A. If you are following guidance issued by a medical professional or public health official to isolate or quarantine yourself as a result of exposure to COVID-19 and you are not receiving paid sick leave from your employer, you may be eligible to receive unemployment benefits. If you are expected to return to your job as soon as your isolation or quarantine is lifted, you will not need to search for work. You must be able and available to accept any work offered by your employer that would not cause you to break isolation or quarantine, and you would need to make sure that your employer has your current contact information.
Q. My boss just announced that my business has to temporarily close and that everyone will be laid off until it reopens. Can I collect unemployment benefits, and do I have to look for work until we reopen?
A. If the business is being temporarily closed as a result of the impact of the COVID-19 virus and you are expected to return to work once the business reopens, you may be eligible for unemployment benefits. You would not have to look for work as long as you remain able and available to work for your employer and make sure your employer has your current contact information.
Q. The place I work at just closed down due to the impact of the COVID-19 virus and I’ve been laid off. I just completed a claim for unemployment benefits. Will unemployment benefits start right away? I’ve filed a claim in the past and I had to serve a waiting week before I could start collecting.
A. If a business or part of the business is shut down due to the impact of the COVID-19 virus, you will not be required to serve a waiting week before you can start receiving unemployment benefits.
Q. My boss is allowing me to take an unpaid temporary leave of absence because I am considered
high-risk of the COVID-19 infection if I stay at the office, even though I am not sick now. Would I be able to collect unemployment benefits until I am able to go back to work?
A. You may be eligible for unemployment benefits during a temporary, unpaid leave of absence if you are expected to return to your job at the end of the leave, and provided you remain able and available to work for your employer and make sure that your employer has your current contact information.
Q. What if my employer goes out of business permanently as a result of COVID-19?
A. You may be eligible for and should apply for unemployment benefits.
Q. Am I covered as a self-employed fisherman?
A. Since independent contractors and the self-employed do not contribute to unemployment taxes, they are not eligible for unemployment benefits. The new legislation does not change this.