The hard work of public health workers and every-day Alaskans has paid off. Alaska has some of the lowest rates of COVID-19 infections in the country. This has allowed us to start reopening our economy and allow many unemployed workers to go back to work.
It is important to keep in mind that if you are collecting unemployment insurance and you can go back to a safe working environment without risking the health of yourself or those you care for, you should head back to work.
Valid reasons to not return to work
If you are unable to return to work because of a lack of child care or because of underlying health issues which make you particularly vulnerable to COVID-19, you may be eligible to continue receiving unemployment benefits.
Risks of not accepting a job offer
If you have been offered your job back, and don't have good justification for not accepting the job, you risk losing your employment benefits, having to pay back benefits received and a potential unemployment fraud charge. Further, you risk not having a job waiting for you when you want to work.
Keep in mind that there may be exceptions to this, and the Department of Labor & Workforce Development is evaluating unemployed workers' situations on a case-by-case basis for good cause determinations that an unemployed worker may not need to return to work and can still collect unemployment benefits.
Feel your workplace isn't safe?
If you don't have issues with child care or underlying health concerns, but still have concerns about going back to work I encourage you to discuss your concerns with your employer. Employers want their employees to be safe and will generally work with employees to try to find ways to ensure a safe and healthy workplace.
Partial benefits are available
If you have been offered less than full-time hours by your employer, you will still be eligible for a partial unemployment benefit. This is a change from the traditional unemployment made possible by the passage of HB 308 in March.
If you have any questions about any of this, I encourage you to reach out to the Department of Labor to discuss your situation. The department has hired hundreds of new staff in the last 6 weeks and is now able to answer phone calls again. You can email AUICC@alaska.gov
or call one of the claims centers:
- Anchorage UI Claim Center - (907) 269-4700
- Juneau UI Claim Center - (907) 465-5552
- Fairbanks UI Claim Center - (907) 451-2871
- All other areas - (888) 252-2557