DearColleague.us

Letter

From the office of:

Susan Wild

Sending Office: Honorable Susan Wild
Sent By:
Zach.Fowler@mail.house.gov

Dear Colleague:

Please join Representatives Wild and Cárdenas in sending a letter to Secretary of Labor Eugene Scalia, which expresses disappointment regarding new guidance issued by the Department of Labor concerning unemployment benefits in the CARES Act.

The Department of Labor’s new rules force gig workers to “suspend operations” entirely to qualify for unemployment compensation.  As explained by Andrew Stettner, Senior Fellow of the Century Foundation, the “Labor Department chose the narrowest possible
definition of who qualifies for pandemic unemployment assistance,” which was never the intention of Congress. Unfortunately, this standard makes it nearly impossible for gig workers, like ride-share and food delivery drivers, to obtain benefits that cover
losses that are the result of reduced demand for their business, regardless of whether their apps are still operating.

Additionally, there are reports that the Department of Labor has released only half of the $1 billion in administrative support for states to set up unemployment compensation systems that include newly eligible independent contractors and gig workers.

To join Representatives Wild and Cárdenas in their request for rules that put workers first, please contact Zach Fowler (Zach.Fowler@mail.house.gov) in Representative Wild’s office or Olivia Oo (Olivia.Oo@mail.house.gov) in Representative Cárdenas’
office.

Sincerely

Susan Wild                              Tony Cárdenas

Member of Congress              Member of Congress

 

Honorable Eugene Scalia

U.S. Department of Labor

200 Constitution Ave. NW

Washington, D.C. 20210

Dear Secretary Scalia:

We write to express our alarm and disappointment regarding the new guidance issued by the U.S. Department of Labor concerning unemployment benefits in the CARES Act.

Many in our communities are out of work as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent economic impact, and they worry about how they will meet critical obligations, such as mortgage payments, health insurance premiums, and deductibles. Approximately
22 million Americans have applied for unemployment insurance since President Trump declared a national emergency.[1] When you make statements such as, “[w]e want workers to work, not to become dependent on the
unemployment system,” you imply a false narrative—an unwillingness to work among the American people—and fail to consider the impact and public health necessity of business closures and travel restrictions. 

Specifically, we object to the U.S. Department of Labor’s new rules that a gig worker must be “forced to suspend operations” to qualify for unemployment compensation. This standard makes it nearly impossible for gig workers, like ride-share and food delivery
drivers and many others, to obtain benefits that cover losses that are the result of reduced demand for their business, regardless of whether their apps are still operating.[2] We believe this rule is contrary
to the CARES Act, which broadly and temporarily opened unemployment compensation to independent contractors, gig workers, and sole proprietors based on their recent earnings, without regard to whether their operations were suspended entirely. Just as thirty
of our Senate colleagues expressed the need for clearer guidance in their letter on April 13, 2020, we ask for immediate clarification of the Labor Department’s new rules to ensure that unemployment compensation is available for independent contractors who
have seen demand for their services drop as a result of COVID-19.[3]

Additionally, because of new eligibility under the CARES Act, we are acutely aware of the struggles that state unemployment compensation offices have had implementing and administering this new system for independent contractors. While we recognize that
the federal government does not have a direct hand in the implementation and administration of such benefits, we are concerned by reports that the U.S. Department of Labor “has released only half of the $1 billion in administrative support for states” to set
up this new system.[4] We request immediate disbursement of the balance of those funds to the states so that they can set up necessary portals for applications in order for independent contractors to start applying
for the unemployment compensation they deserve. Every day that funding is delayed, even if unemployment benefits are retroactively disbursed, is another day that families are in danger of being unable to afford their most basic life necessities during this
crisis.

In short, the U.S. Department of Labor has, in many respects, failed to meet the spirit and congressional intent of the CARES Act. Congress passed this legislation to expand those benefits to the greatest extent possible and to soften the economic blow COVID-19
has placed on families across our congressional districts. Worse yet, the guidance of the Department of Labor stands in direct conflict with the organic act of 1913 that established the Department of Labor in the first place and which expressly stated that
the Department’s purpose is “to foster, promote and develop the welfare of working people, to improve their working conditions, and to enhance their opportunities for profitable employment.”[5] A global pandemic—one
that has resulted in business closures and shelter-in-place orders at state and local levels of government—is a particularly callous time to narrow the eligibility for unemployment benefits under the CARES Act and certainly does not promote the welfare of
hard-working American people.

We urge you to clarify the new guidance issued concerning unemployment benefits in the CARES Act and respectfully request a response on this matter by May 1, 2020. Additionally, please allow this letter to serve as a reminder about whose interests you are
supposed to serve.

Sincerely,

Susan Wild                              Tony Cárdenas

Member of Congress              Member of Congress

 


[1]  https://www.cnn.com/2020/04/16/economy/unemployment-benefits-coronavirus/index.html

[2]https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2020/04/10/labor-secretary-eugene-scalia-faces-blowback-he-curtails-scope-worker-relief-unemployment-crisis/

[3] https://www.alternet.org/2020/04/senate-democrats-rip-trump-labor-department-for-attempting-to-exclude-gig-workers-from-unemployment-benefits/

[4] https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2020/04/10/labor-secretary-eugene-scalia-faces-blowback-he-curtails-scope-worker-relief-unemployment-crisis/

[5] https://www.dol.gov/general/aboutdol/history/dolhistoxford

Related Legislative Issues

Selected legislative information: Economy, Finance, Labor

Related Deadline Information

Deadline Title: Deadline
Deadline Start: 4/20/2020 12:00:00 PM
Deadline End: 4/23/2020 12:00:00 PM

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