Immigrants and DACA recipients are among those most affected by the massive loss of jobs due to COVID-19. Here’s who qualifies.
As COVID-19 spreads across Florida, many businesses are shutting down or closing indefinitely. At this time the state’s unemployment claims surpass more than half a million applicants, and the number keeps growing daily. Many of those affected are Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients as well as immigrants, who wonder if they are eligible to receive unemployment compensation at this time.
The Americano spoke with Miami immigration lawyer Tatiane M. Silva, Managing Partner at Murray & Silva, to find out the eligibility requirements for DACA recipients and immigrants in the state.
“Normally, DACA recipients may be eligible for state unemployment benefits as long as their work authorization is valid. In Florida, in order to qualify for this benefit program, the applicant must have worked in the state during the past 12 to 18 months and have earned at least a minimum amount of wages as determined by the guidelines,” says Silva.
However, she adds, although getting the benefit “will not disqualify an adjustment of status applicant from getting their green card (which may be the case of a DACA recipient if they become eligible to apply for adjustment of status), it may possibly be considered under the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services’ (USCIS) totality of the circumstances test for public charge.” This term refers to an individual who cannot support himself or herself through employment, assets, or the help of family, and instead depends on government benefits and assistance programs.
Silva also explained that under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security CARES ACT, a person can receive unemployment benefits if they are unable to work or are working reduced hours as a result of COVID-19. That includes people who are directly impacted by the virus (those who have symptoms, are quarantined, or are caring for someone who has coronavirus).
“People should also be covered if their workplace closed due to the public health emergency, if they had to quit their job because of the coronavirus, if they can’t work because they are a caregiver to someone whose school or other facility closed, if they were supposed to start a job but it fell through or they can’t get there because of the coronavirus,” she said.
All of the above applies to lawful permanent residents, or LPRs (i.e., people with green cards); refugees, people granted asylum or withholding of deportation/removal, and conditional entrants; people granted parole by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security for a period of at least one year; Cuban and Haitian entrants; certain abused immigrants, their children, and/or their parents; and certain survivors of trafficking.
Help For the Self-Employed
Something that can also be of help to lawful immigrants is the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program established by Congress in the CARES ACT, which gives the benefits to workers that would usually not be eligible for unemployment benefits, such as people who are self-employed (including gig and contract workers), work part-time or who normally wouldn’t qualify for unemployment benefits because they lack sufficient work history.
“For example, those who work for themselves (independent contractors) or those who don’t earn enough wages to be eligible for regular unemployment,” Jean Marie Pizzini, Director of Intake at The Legal Aid Society, told The Americano. The Legal Aid Society is the oldest provider of legal aid to the indigent and those living in poverty in the nation.
Undocumented workers cannot receive unemployment benefits as only legal permanent residents and those who have a valid work permit at the time of the application can be considered.
To apply for Florida Unemployment Benefits or to find out if you are eligible, visit the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity’s website.
You may also call the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity’s HOTLINE: 1 800-342-9909