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Florida employees worry about returning to work as coronavirus cases continue to rise

'It’s just not worth it,' unemployed works says
Florida employees worry about returning to work as coronavirus cases continue to rise
Florida employees worry about returning to work as coronavirus cases continue to rise
Posted at 7:29 PM, Jun 25, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-25 19:29:58-04

Florida added another 5,000 coronavirus cases on Thursday, and some employees have decided to hold off on their return to work because they are worried they could be exposed.

But are they then eligible for unemployment?

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Although the Sunshine State's reopening means Naresh Maragh can return to work in the restaurant industry at any time, he has decided not to.

"It's just not worth it," said the Tampa resident. "It's actually very irresponsible."

COVID-19 concerns have him worried about his health and those he cares about.

"Maybe you'll be OK — but you're really contagious," Maragh said. "Even if you're asymptomatic and contagious and could pass it on to other people."

Just how many have refused to go back to work due to COVID-19 is a hard number to calculate. Reports suggest in places like Missouri, it is close to 1,000, and more than 700 in Tennessee. State officials here have yet to provide the number for Florida.

However, the state's Department of Economic Opportunity does provide clarity on whether unemployment insurance covers a work refusal claim. In its online FAQs, virus worries aren't enough to get benefits.

Unemployment attorney Ryan Barack
Unemployment attorney Ryan Barack says he encourages workers who were denied unemployment benefits to file an appeal.

The DEO said you have to show "good cause" to receive aid. For many, that means proving you have an underlying condition and that the virus could make you seriously ill.

To do that, you must do the following:

  • You'd first need a note from your doctor to document your condition
  • Also, you have to show your employer is unable to offer safety options — like working from home

You can take your claim up with DEO via the state's unemployment website CONNECT. Officials did warn the federal government will likely pull its benefits package for those claiming general virus concerns.

Unemployment attorney Ryan Barack recently told us a denial isn't always the end of things. He encouraged claimants to keep trying.

"If your claim has been denied, and you think it should have been paid, then you can appeal," Barack said. "They need to be brought within 20 days of the determination."

Maragh said he doesn't believe he'd qualify for "good cause," so he didn't plan of trying to file. That doesn't mean he agreed with the state's policy, however.

"You trust your government to make the right decisions and pay you back — we're in a global pandemic," Maragh said. "Florida is about to be the next epicenter the way that our numbers are going."