Bill Summary for S 320 (2021-2022)

Summary date: 

Mar 17 2021

Bill Information:

View NCGA Bill Details2021
Senate Bill 320 (Public) Filed Wednesday, March 17, 2021
AN ACT REFORMING THE EMPLOYMENT SECURITY LAWS BY INCREASING BENEFIT ELIGIBILITY TO A TWENTY-SIX WEEK PERIOD AND THE MAXIMUM WEEKLY BENEFIT AMOUNT TO THE SUM EQUAL TO FIVE HUNDRED DOLLARS ADJUSTED ANNUALLY FOR INFLATION, BASING THE CALCULATION OF THE BENEFIT AMOUNT ON THE HIGHEST PAID QUARTER, INCREASING BENEFITS ALLOWED FOR PARTIAL UNEMPLOYMENT, PROVIDING BENEFITS IN CASES WHERE AN INDIVIDUAL LEAVES EMPLOYMENT FOR SPOUSAL RELOCATION OR HEALTH REASONS OR DUE TO AN UNDUE HARDSHIP, AUTHORIZING THE FORGIVENESS OF NONFRAUDULENT OVERPAYMENTS CAUSED BY AGENCY ERROR, AND ESTABLISHING A SHORT-TERM COMPENSATION PROGRAM TO BENEFIT EMPLOYERS AND EMPLOYEES.
Intro. by Nickel, Lowe, Woodard.

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Bill summary

Section 1.1

Amends GS 96-14.2, changing the weekly benefit amount for total and partial unemployment. Now, provides for the weekly benefit amount for total unemployment to equal the wages paid to the individual in the highest paid quarter of the individual's base period divided by 26 and rounded to the next lower whole dollar (previously, was equal to the wages paid in the last two completed quarters of the individual's base period, divided and rounded as described). Also increases the cap for the weekly benefit amount from $350 to $500, and requires annual adjustment for increases in the consumer price index on January 1. Defines consumer price index and provides for adjustment procedures. Replaces the calculation of partial weekly benefit amounts as follows. Provides that if the total wages payable to an individual for less than full-time work performed in a week claimed exceed one-half of the individual's weekly benefit amount, the amount of wages that exceed one-half of the weekly benefit amount must be deducted from the benefits payable to the claimant (previously, reduced by the amount of any wages the individual receives in the benefit week in excess of 20% of the benefit amount applicable to total unemployment). 

Section 2.1

Amends GS 96-14.3, eliminating the current duration parameters for unemployment benefits. Instead, establishes a standard maximum period of 26 weeks for any eligible individual entitled to receive unemployment benefits, unless expressly extended by state or federal law. Makes conforming changes to the total allowable benefits amount.

Section 3.1

Amends GS 96-14.8 to expand the reasons for leaving work provided which do not disqualify an individual for benefits, and which are not chargeable to the employer's account. Adds instances where an individual leaves work due solely to a disability incurred or other health condition, whether or not related to work, so long as the individual shows an adequate disability of the employee, a minor in the legal custody of the individual, an aged or disabled parent of the individual, or a disabled member of the individual's immediate family, at the time of leaving, that prevented the employee from doing the greater of other alternative work at minimum wage or 85 percent of the individual's regular wage, and that the individual gave the employer reasonable notice of the disability or health condition. Adds instances where an individual is unable to accept a particular shift due to inability to obtain child care for a minor under 14 years of age in the legal custody of the individual, elder care for an aged or disabled parent of the individual, or care for any disabled member of that individual's immediate family. Finally, adds instances where an individual leaves work to accompany a spouse to a new place of residence where the spouse has secured work in a location that is too far removed for the claimant reasonably to continue to work.

Section 4.1

Revises the repayments liabilities for overpayments stated in GS 96-18(g) to no longer include overpayment of unemployment benefits by the Division of Employment Security due to errors of Division representatives as a liability of the individual receiving the benefits. 

Amends GS 96-18.1, adding a new subsection to prohibit charging any employer where unemployment benefits are paid as a result of a decision by the Division if the decision is ultimately reversed. Prohibits deeming such benefits paid to constitute overpayment under GS 96-18(g).

Section 5.1

Enacts Article 6, Work-Sharing and Short-Time Compensation, of GS Chapter 96. Establishes a short-time compensation program that allows employers to submit a short-time compensation plan for approval by the Division of Employment Security (Division) for an affected unit of the employer to avert layoffs and offer short-time compensation to workers in the affected unit under an approved plan.

Requires an employer to submit a signed, written short-time compensation plan (plan) to the Division for approval. Requires the Division to develop an application form that includes nine specified components, including (1) the affected units and employees covered; (2) the employees' usual weekly hours of work, as defined, and the employer's proposed reduction percentage during weeks covered by the plan, which must be between 10 and 60 percent; (3) certification of continued health and retirement benefits, as defined, during weeks covered by the plan; (4) certification that the aggregate reduction of work hours is in lieu of layoffs; and (5) the effective date and duration of the plan, which cannot exceed 12 months. Provides for flexibility in the application process for demonstrated good cause, such as modes of operation that preclude setting specific dates and hours in the application. Excludes overtime work from the term usual weekly hours of work, and prohibits the hours from exceeding 40.

Requires the Division to approve or disapprove the plan in writing within 30 days of receipt and to promptly notify the employer. Requires notice of disapproval to include specific reasoning. Allows submission of another plan after 90 days of disapproval.

Details parameters regarding the effective date and duration of the plan, allowing plans to expire earlier than the end of the twelfth calendar month after its effective date. Allows an employer to terminate the plan at any time upon written notice to the Division. Allows an employer to submit a new application at any time after the expiration or termination date of a plan.

Allows for the Division to revoke plan approval for good cause at any time. Requires revocation to be in writing and include specific reasoning. Provides that revocation terminates the plan on the date specified in the order. Authorizes the Division to periodically review plans to assure no good cause exists for revocation, such as failure to comply with the assurances given in the plan, unreasonable revision of productivity standards for the affected unit, conduct or occurrence tending to defeat the intent and effective operation of the plan, and violation of any criteria on which approval of the plan was based.

Details requirements and limitations regarding plan modification. Prohibits any modification from extending the original plan's expiration date. Requires reporting of any modification that is not substantial which does not require Division approval.

Details eligibility for short-time compensation and benefits included under an approved plan. Eligibility criteria are that the individual be monetarily eligible and not disqualified for unemployment compensation who: (1) during the week, is employed as a member of an affected unit under a prior approved plan and the plan is in effect with respect to the week for which compensation is claimed; (2) is available for his or her usual hours of work with the employer, including training; and (3) is deemed unemployed in any week during the duration of the plan when remuneration as an employee in an affected unit is reduced based on a reduction of the individual's usual weekly hours of work under an approved plan. Defines unemployment compensation to mean the unemployment benefits payable under new Article 6 other than short-time compensation including any amounts payable pursuant to an agreement under any federal law providing for compensation, assistance, or allowances with respect to unemployment. Sets the weekly compensation amount to be the product of the regular weekly unemployment compensation amount for a week of total unemployment multiplied by the percentage of reduction in the individual's usual weekly hours of work. Bars eligibility for combined benefits in any benefit year in an amount more than the maximum entitlement for regular unemployment compensation and payment for more than 52 weeks under the plan. Details further parameters and limitations for compensation, including relation to regular unemployment compensation and the impact of working or not working for a short-time employer and/or another employer during weeks covered by the plan.

Provides that short-time compensation benefits must be charged to an employers' experience rating accounts in the same manner as unemployment compensation charged under GS Chapter 96. Adds that employers liable for payments in lieu of contributions must have short-time compensation attributed to service in their employ in the same manner as unemployment compensation is attributed.

Deems an individual who has received all of the short-time compensation or combined unemployment compensation and short-time compensation available in a benefit year to be an exhaustee of extended benefits unless otherwise eligible for extended benefits.

Provides for the provisions of Section 5.1 to become effective 60 days from the date the act becomes law and applying retroactively to claims arising, and to plans submitted, on or after February 15, 2021.

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