News

Unemployment insurance information and updates

June 08, 2020
Nonprofit members have reached out to the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits (MCN) regarding unemployment insurance (UI) for nonprofit employers and unemployment compensation benefits (UC) for nonprofit employees.  

The information provided on this website does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice, and rather is for general information purposes only. 

 

Unemployment Insurance (UI) for Nonprofit Employers

Many of you who have reached out or are reading this have employees who will be eligible for unemployment insurance (UI) due to the coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19), and are concerned about the upcoming associated costs, whether you are a reimbursing employer or pay into the state’s UI pool (nonprofits are able to choose between these two options). If you are not sure which category your organization is in, check out this great blog post: https://www.councilofnonprofits.org/thought-leadership/self-insured-nonprofits-and-unemployment-insurance from our colleague David Heinen at the North Carolina Council of Nonprofits.  

In a nutshell, if you pay a UI tax to the state, you are a “tax-paying” employer, meaning you pay into the state’s UI pool. If you have a trust account where you keep funds for paying unemployment claims, you are a “reimbursing” or “self-insured” employer. It’s also possible you’re a nonprofit exempt from unemployment laws – houses of worship, religious organizations affiliated with houses of worship, and religious schools, as well as nonprofits with fewer than four employees who work during 20 weeks of the year – employees of those SUTA-exempt charitable organizations are not eligible for unemployment insurance benefits.   


Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (MN DEED) is keeping a well-updated page with information for employers: https://www.uimn.org/employers/employer-account/news-updates/covid-19.jsp.  

Please see MN DEED’s message to nonprofit employers, which includes information about cash advances, grant extensions, and a note that during this time, DEED is “doubling down on our commitment to our nonprofit partners.”

For reimbursing employers: 

Federal level 

The third federal COVID-19 related stimulus package, the CARES Act, covered for reimbursing nonprofits 50 percent  of the costs of benefits provided to their laid-off employees. MCN is leading national advocacy efforts for Congress to increase this relief to 100 percent. 

Such an increase was unfortunately not included in the US House’s proposal (called the HEROES Act), but increasing relief to 75 percent was included in the US Senate’s proposal (called the HEALS Act), released on July 27. It is probable that Congress will pass a compromise bill before they go home on August 7, and we will be pushing hard for 100 percent relief in that bill. Keep in mind that the Senate’s proposal is just that – a proposal.  

One piece of good news is that Congress fixed a problem it had created. Previously, the US Department of Labor interpreted the CARES Act provision to say that a reimbursing organization needs to pay 100 percent of its UI bill, then seek reimbursement for 50 percent of the cost from the state. 

Knowing that many organizations will not be able to pay the full bill, and that this guidance creates more work for both employers and the state, we and other organizations around the country advocated that the language in the CARES Act be amended slightly to fix this problem. The Protecting Nonprofits from Catastrophic Cash Flow Strain Act at the federal level (S. 4209), includes that fix and removes the burden of orgs having to pay 100% of their bill, then wait to receive 50% back. That bill has passed both the US Senate and House, and is waiting at the White House for the President’s signature (as of 7/28/2020).. 

State Level

The Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) has suspended 2nd Quarter UI bills for reimbursing employers, as well as interest and penalties on any outstanding amounts due from Q1 and Q2. Each reimbursing employer should have received a letter with this information. That letter includes information about why DEED is suspending Q2 billing: 

“There are two primary reasons we have suspended the billing process: 

  • Due to high levels of claims activities over the last four months, we have been unable to adjust benefit charges for most employers. Since that process is incomplete, any bill we generate could not be considered final.
  • There are provisions under the CARES Act related to reimbursing employer benefit charges that present a variety of administrative challenges. One of these is that the CARES Act requires reimbursing employers to fully pay their outstanding charges in order to qualify for a partial refund. We know submitting a full payment to us (and waiting for us to process a refund) would be burdensome for your organization. We have requested Congress take action to simplify the billing process for UI programs and offer broader relief for reimbursing employers.”

Note that there was a glitch with DEED’s billing system that caused some Q2 bills to be send erroneously. Recipients of those bills should have received an amended billing notice soon after.

Minnesota statute states that unemployment benefits paid will not be charged to the reimbursable account of a base period nonprofit when the applicant’s unemployment from this employer was a direct result of an “act of nature,” where 25 percent or more of the employees employed at the affected location, including the applicant, became employed as a result. (Minn. Stat. § 268.047 Subd. 2(5)) Governor Walz clearly stated that the coronavirus pandemic is an “act of nature” in Executive Order 20-01.

The Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Data (MN DEED) is the agency that would administer such relief, but has not provided any guidance or information for reimbursing employers. We are asking DEED for guidance on how this statute will be administered and will continue to push for that. We understand that uncertainty in federal relief hinders DEED from making some of these decisions. 

MCN is also advocating with the Legislature and the Walz Administration to provide relief for all reimbursing employers, not just those covered by the statute because they have laid off 25 percent of more of their employees at a location.

What’s Next?
MCN will continue to work hard with lawmakers and MN DEED to advocate for relief for nonprofit employers. MCN will continue to provide updates about actions you can take and information regarding UI via the policy section of MCN’s COVID-19 resource page, email through the Nonprofit Advocate (subscribe!), and MCN’s social media channels. 

 
For taxpaying employers:

One very important step Governor Walz took was to issue Executive Order 20-05 that relieves taxpaying employers of benefits charges associated with COVID-19. This means that for those organizations, your future UI tax rate will not increase if your workers collect unemployment benefits because of COVID-19. DEED notes on its webpage that you do not need to notify the agency to be relieved of these charges.     


Other employer-related provisions in the CARES Act

Emergency Small Business Loans (emergency SBA 7(a) loans): Provides funding for special emergency loans of up to $10 million for eligible nonprofits and small businesses, permitting them to cover costs of payroll, operations, and debt service, and provides that the loans be forgiven in whole or in part under certain circumstances. Title I, Section 1102.

  • General Eligibility: Available to entities that existed on March 1, 2020 and had paid employees.
  • Nonprofit Eligibility: Available for charitable nonprofits with 500 or fewer employees (counting each individual – full time or part time and not FTEs). The final bill does not include a provision in earlier drafts that would have disqualified nonprofits that are eligible for payments under Title XIX of the Social Security Act (Medicaid).
  • Loan Use: Loan funds could be used to make payroll and associated costs, including health insurance premiums, facilities costs, and debt service.
  • Loan Forgiveness: Employers that maintain employment between March 1 and June 30 would be eligible to have their loans forgiven, essentially turning the loan into a grant. Section 1106.

Employee Retention Payroll Tax Credit: Creates a refundable payroll tax credit of up to $5,000 for each employee on the payroll when certain conditions are met. The entity had to be an ongoing concern at the beginning of 2020 and had seen a drop in revenue of at least 50 percent in the first quarter compared to the first quarter of 2019. The availability of the credit would continue each quarter until the organization’s revenue exceeds 80 percent of the same quarter in 2019. For tax-exempt organizations, the entity’s whole operations must be taken into account when determining the decline in revenues. Notably, employers receiving emergency SBA 7(a) loans would not be eligible for these credits. Section 2301.

What about people who are self-employed? 
The federal CARES Act includes coverage for workers who are furloughed, gig workers, and freelancers.
 


 
Unemployment Compensation Benefits for Nonprofit Employees

With a rapidly changing economy due to COVID-19, on March 16 Governor Tim Walz announced via Executive Order 20-05 that he would expand availability for unemployment compensation.  

Unemployment compensation supports workers when they become unemployed or have had their hours greatly reduced. The governor waived the normal wait period for unemployment benefits in order to support workers as quickly as possible and adjusted the requirement that one needs to be looking for work while receiving benefits. He expanded eligibility in the context of our public health crisis to workers who:

  • Have been told by a health professional to avoid contact with others,  
  • Have been told to not come into work because of the outbreak, or  
  • Are unable to work due to canceled school or unavailable daycare or child care.

To apply for unemployment benefits in Minnesota, go to www.uimn.org. More information on unemployment insurance and COVID-19 can be found by clicking here. Updated information from DEED can be found by clicking here