As states begin to reopen their economies after weeks of stay-at-home orders, some are warning employees that they will lose unemployment benefits if they refuse to return to their jobs, according to The Hill — even if they fear contracting the coronavirus.
In Iowa, Governor Kim Reynolds (R) said failing to return to work would be considered a “voluntary quit,” which would terminate an employee’s benefits.
"If you're an employer and you offer to bring your employee back to work and they decide not to, that's a voluntary quit," Reynolds said Friday. "Therefore, they would not be eligible for the unemployment money."
The governor also said employers should file a report with Iowa Workforce Development if they encounter workers who refuse to come back to their jobs.
Beginning on May 1, the state will start lifting social distancing restrictions in 77 of its 99 counties, The Hill reported, which will allow “restaurants, fitness centers, malls, libraries, race tracks, and certain other retail establishments to reopen in a limited fashion with public health measures in place.”
Those 77 counties have seen a decline in new cases or no new cases at all over the past two weeks, according to Reynolds, which means they have met a key requirement set forth by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for states looking to reopen.
A similar situation is playing out in Texas, where Republican Governor Greg Abbott announced that businesses can reopen on Friday.
Cisco Gamez, a Texas Workforce Commission spokesman, told the Texas Tribune that employees who choose not to return to work will become ineligible for unemployment benefits.
The Hill noted that more than 25 million Americans have filed for unemployment benefits since mid-March, as businesses began shutting their doors due to the pandemic.