Despite Congress approving last month an expansion to unemployment insurance programs nationwide, seasonal workers in Moab may soon see their benefits run out if they have not already. A spokesperson said that employees would eventually receive the expanded benefits, but when that will happen is uncertain.
Moabites who work seasonally in the tourism industry get the option each year of receiving unemployment insurance starting late winter, a benefit that lasts them until early spring, when jobs become available again as tourists flood the valley.
This year, due to a lack of tourism and the extended period of time many have gone without a job, some locals are now running out of unemployment benefits, according to the Utah Department of Workforce Services.
Unemployed workers have a limit on how much money they can collect each year through the state’s unemployment office, and despite the federal government allowing states to extend the period of time for which workers can collect unemployment insurance payouts — despite even the extra $600 per week that the federal government has allocated for those who qualify for unemployment benefits — some local workers are not collecting either right now.
“We went into this knowing this would happen,” said Brooke Porter Coles, a spokesperson for the Department of Workforce Services.
The federal CARES Act, passed at the end of March, provides expansions to existing unemployment programs by allowing unemployed citizens to remain on the program 13 weeks longer than usual and receive an additional $600 per week.
These programs are administered by the states and funded by the federal government, which also provides guidance to states on how to administer them.
“We’ve gotten that guidance in waves,” Porter Coles said, adding that the last wave of guidance that Utah received was on the expanded unemployment benefits.
As such, according to Porter Coles, Utah has not yet completed work on the expanded unemployment insurance program, so workers who are nearing or past the end of their eligibility for benefits will have to wait for the help to arrive.
How long they must wait, though, is currently unknown. Porter Coles said that there was not a timeline available regarding when the benefits would become available to seasonal workers.
Once seasonal workers have exhausted their unemployment insurance payouts, they can keep filing a weekly claim as usual, even if the unemployment office rejects their application.
“If (seasonal workers) continue to file their weekly claim, it will make processing their claims quicker once the expanded benefits are available,” Porter Coles said.