I’ve Been Furloughed. Now What?
COVID-19 continues to dramatically impact the United States and, with the end of this crisis still distant, many companies are taking significant action to save costs and keep their doors open. Over the course of the past few weeks hundreds of thousands of Americans have been furloughed due to the continued spread of the virus. If you find yourself in this situation, you may be understandably concerned, frustrated and wondering how to make ends meet and what comes next. If you’ve been furloughed, here’s what you need to know:
Confirm You’ve Been Furloughed
Before you make plans for moving forward, you should make sure what your status is with your employer. Employers, unfortunately, tend to use the terms “furlough,” “layoff,” and “reduction in force” interchangeably, but the three have very distinct and very important differences which can lead to confusion and potentially serious misunderstandings. Furloughed employees are still on the company payroll, but either have their hours reduced or are required to take unpaid time off. A layoff removes an employee from the payroll and leaves the position open; it can be a temporary measure or a permanent removal from the team depending on circumstances. A reduction in force (or RIF) is the permanent elimination of a position.
Be aware that your employer can also later choose to change the furlough into a layoff or an RIF depending on external conditions. To be certain of your situation, contact your employer as soon as possible.
What benefits can I expect?
Thankfully, in the current crisis furloughed employees are able to apply for unemployment benefits under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. The act allows for the collection of unemployment benefits based on previous earnings for laid-off or furloughed employees for up to 39 weeks, as well as an additional $600 per week for up to four months until July 31st.
Additionally, depending on company policy, furloughed employees may still receive certain benefits from their employers. For example, the furloughed employees at Disney will retain their insurance and the company will continue to pay the cost of employee and company premiums, as well as continuing the funding for furloughed employees’ education programs. Macy’s employees have been told they will also retain their insurance through May as well as keep their 401k, though they will not be able to contribute to it while they are not being paid.
Contact your employer if you have any questions about what benefits are or aren’t provided during the furlough.
How can I make ends meet?
Adjusting to life without your usual expected income can be extremely difficult, but thankfully there are some options and resources available. Thanks to the $2.2 trillion CARES Act recently passed by the US government, roughly 94% of all Americans will receive a one-time direct payment of some kind, with individuals making under $75,000 a year and couples filing jointly making under $150,000 receiving $1,200 and $2,400 respectfully with an additional $500 credit per child.
While restrictions will vary depending on the state and company policy, furloughed workers also may be able to take on part-time work as a stopgap and still be eligible for receiving partial unemployment benefits. Be sure to confirm with your company’s policies to make sure you are not contractually bound to not look for other work and be aware that taking part-time work may affect your eligibility for other employer benefits like healthcare.
It is important to remember that if you believe that you are being treated unfairly or you believe that your rights are being violated, you should contact a lawyer to learn your rights. You may find an employment lawyer practicing in your area through the National Employment Lawyers Association website: www.nela.org.