Under 2019 Wis. Act 185 (published on April 16, 2020), employers can request charging relief from unemployment insurance benefits for initial claims related to the COVID-19 public health emergency Governor Evers declared on March 12, 2020 by Executive Order 72. On November 30, 2020, the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development (DWD) issued a new emergency rule addressing the process for employers to request this relief. Charging relief is significant because employer unemployment contributions to the state are frequently based upon past experience. This relief is designed to ensure that an employer’s future assessment does not factor in pandemic-related claims. Relief also extends to reimbursement-based employers, i.e., employers who are not subject to contribution financing, to ensure federal credit under the CARES Act is properly applied to such employers. To that end, all Wisconsin employers who experienced pandemic-related unemployment claims should be evaluating whether to submit a charging relief request to the DWD.
All employers requesting charging relief must fill out and return to the DWD a certification form. The form is available here. The new emergency rule sets a deadline by which employers must submit the completed form. The deadline is the latter of February 19, 2021, or 30 days after the DWD notifies the employer of an initial claim for benefits years beginning on or after March 15, 2020 through December 26, 2020.
Importantly, the DWD will presume that a claimant’s initial claim for benefits between March 15, 2020 and May 16, 2020 relates to the COVID-19 public health emergency. All employers who paid base period wages to the claimant will be relieved of the benefit charges for that claim, and the DWD will not require employers to submit the form requesting relief. This presumption does not apply to separations from employment due to a labor dispute, quit, discharge for misconduct, or discharge for substantial fault. However, employers may submit the form for relief in these situations under qualifying circumstances.
As for initial claims on or after May 17, 2020 through December 26, 2020, all employers must submit the required form. An employer may receive charging relief if it certifies that any of the following apply to the initial claim:
- The employer’s business/operations reduced, suspended, or ceased after experiencing a significant reduction of income due to a Safer at Home order or a government-issued health order that restricts business operations;
- The employer’s business/operations reduced, suspended, or ceased due to other businesses (including suppliers) having reduced, suspended, or ceased operations;
- The federal Paycheck Protection Program loan amount was used to pay employees, but the business did not yet reopen;
- The employer provides other information showing that the initial claim relates to the COVID-19 public health emergency.
The rule also clarifies that the employer non-charging provisions apply to all employers in a claimant’s base period. This means that employers in a claimant’s base period who are not the claimant’s most recent employer may seek charging relief for claims by a former employee whose initial claim is related to the COVID-19 public health emergency.
We caution all employers that receiving relief may take considerable time. The DWD is processing requests manually. It expects to complete processing by June 30, 2021.