State: Unemployment "work search" letters not applicable

Posted at 9:01 AM, Apr 22, 2020

HELENA — There has been some confusion around the changes brought on by the coronavirus, including in Montana’s unemployment insurance system.

Some Montanans reported they recently received a letter from the Montana Department of Labor and Industry, saying that they were no longer “job-attached,” and that they needed to begin looking for work in order to continue receiving benefits.

A department spokesperson confirmed to MTN News that people who apply for unemployment insurance during the COVID-19 emergency do not need to show they are searching for work. They said emergency rules have removed the work search requirement for anyone who filed an unemployment claim due to COVID-19 and temporarily waived it for other claims.

The spokesperson said these letters are no longer applicable because of the emergency rule changes, and that it will not hold up payments if people are otherwise eligible.

Labor and Industry reported making more than $62 million in unemployment insurance payments last week, including an additional $600 weekly benefit approved by Congress as part of the CARES Act relief package.

Department leaders announced Tuesday that they will also begin processing UI claims for self-employed people, independent contractors and others who are not eligible for regular benefits – another provision of the CARES Act.