Utah Senate passes bill waiving unemployment benefits waiting period

Utah Senate President Stuart Adams leads the Utah Legislature's virtual special session in a nearly empty Senate chambers at the Utah State Capitol Thursday, April 16, 2020, in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Senate gave the first green light on a bill allowing Utahns wanting to receive unemployment benefits to do so without the one-week waiting period when the governor or president has declared a state or national emergency.

The Senate voted unanimously in the historic special session Thursday, which was called to discuss emergency measures in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

SB3003, which comes after Congress passed The Cares Act providing support for unemployment benefits, is the state’s response to the federal measure, said Sen. Ann Millner, R-Ogden.

A provision in The Cares Act provides federal funding to states who wish to waive the one-week waiting period for those seeking unemployment benefits, and Millner’s bill sought to do that.

”It will benefit a lot of people and allow them to begin to draw benefits once the paperwork is finished and they’re approved,” Millner said in an interview. “We have a lot of people who have that need right now.”

Hanna Pectol, a Utah State University student and employee at The White Owl and The Crepery, filed for unemployment benefits about three weeks ago when The White Owl announced it would be temporarily closing — along with all of Utah’s bars — and The Crepery drastically cut back her hours while Utahns are asked to stay home and restaurants move to take-out only.

“It’s another layer of anxiety where I don’t know when I’m going to be back at work,” Pectol said.

Because she’s not completely unemployed — just had her hours cut back — the Department of Workforce Services took two weeks to decide which benefits to afford Pectol, plus the additional one-week waiting period before she could begin receiving them.

For two weeks I had little-to-no income…There was a solid two weeks where I couldn’t do anything,” she said. “I just had nothing going for me except for the maybe $20 I would make in a shift.”

As she woke up each day, Pectol tried not to think about which groceries she could afford to buy — and which she could not.

Millner’s bill would have made a large difference in mitigating Pectol’s anxiety, and Pectol hopes the House of Representatives and Gov. Herbert agree.

While the bill would erase the federally mandated waiting period, it would not decrease the waiting time, often weeks, Utahns experience when applying for unemployment benefits, Millner said.

“The system is overwhelmed but they’re working as quickly as they can to respond to all those people,” she said. “Their process will still take some time just because of the situation that we’re in right now.”

One of 21 bills to be discussed throughout the next few days in the legislature’s special session, the bill passed unanimously in the Senate and now goes to the House of Representatives for approval, then to Gov. Herbert.

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5 Comments

  • Andrew April 21, 2020 at 4:08 pm Reply

    Is this bill retroactive for all the Hannas out there? Will she be paid for the waiting period or is it only for people who apply for benefits starting in late April?

    • Tari York April 30, 2020 at 11:24 pm Reply

      I am really hoping that it is retroactive! I think it is asinine for there to be a waiting period at all. I don’t understand it. My employer pays for unemployment insurance on my behalf. Why is my check being held hostage? Having my hours drastically reduced is not my fault.

  • Tari York April 22, 2020 at 11:50 pm Reply

    I need this bill to pass asap! Governor Herbert please get your pen out and do what other states have done. I have bills to pay and need to put food on the table!

  • Tari York April 30, 2020 at 11:28 pm Reply

    Just found my answer:

    “Unemployment Benefits Amendments, SB 3003, sponsored by Senator Ann Millner.

    This important bill authorizes the Department of Workforce Services to waive the required one-week waiting period to receive unemployment benefits. This waiver applies retroactively to January 1, 2020. This is consistent with the requirements of the CARES Act and will allow those applying for unemployment benefits to receive them more quickly.”

    https://slchamber.com/2020-legislative-special-session-april-21/

  • Gale May 1, 2020 at 8:42 am Reply

    Just got done with talking to unemployment office today and they told me on back dating it to the 26th. Rep stated it said “they may waive it not must”. I’m sure it was a financial move on the states part to reduce a judge portion of payments.

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