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Unemployment Insurance Is Not Available to Churches and Church Employees

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UPDATE 03.20.2020: Church employees terminated and laid off WILL receive unemployment compensation from Alabama under the cares act. They should file now at the Alabama Department of labor website! 

https://www.labor.alabama.gov/news_feed/News_Page.aspx

 

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Churches and church employees are excluded by Alabama law from participating in unemployment insurance.

Making matters worse, Alabama law requires that churches display the unemployment insurance poster, even though it does not apply to church employees. The result is that those who see it are left with incorrect information.

As many Alabama churches close their daycares, mothers’ day out, preschools and after school programs, thousands of teachers will be unemployed.

If they file for unemployment benefits, they will discover they are ineligible.

In the past, we have observed that many unemployment offices are unaware of this quirky law and have contacted churches to investigate.

Be prepared for these things to happen. To read the rule, go to https://labor.alabama.gov/uc/employer.aspx#q3

There are some positive things you can do to help your people through this difficult time:

  • First, tell them that they will not be able to collect unemployment. Most daycare directors who have been through State Board of Missions training during the past few decades are aware of this, but other church leaders are not, including some pastors, other church staff and personnel committee members.
  • When you inform those affected, consider telling them in face-to-face meetings if possible. You may have groups or individuals meet with you, but they will receive it better if they hear directly from you.
  • DO NOT MEET ALONE WITH EMPLOYEES! TAKE A WITNESS! This is a cardinal rule when terminating or laying off personnel. Others to be included in a face-to-face meeting might include the pastor, another ministerial staff member, the weekday committee chair, the chairman of deacons, the personnel committee chair, etc.
  • Consider ways to encourage those affected. Some who are single will be losing their only income. In this case, they may be able to qualify for other public assistance such as EBT (Food Stamps).
  • Most employees will expect some sort of severance pay, and most believe that two weeks is required. Actually the law does not require this, but it is certainly a good practice to provide some severance pay.

Remember, this is a difficult time for all Americans and very much so for those who are losing their jobs.

It is not wise to promise things you cannot fulfill, but you can be positive and optimistic.

There will be many unanswered questions when people come back to work. Will you have enough pupils to rehire everyone? Will some of your employees have taken other jobs in the interim? Will there be new laws related to rehiring or compensation?

The State of Alabama is working hard to mitigate the challenges we’re all facing, but of course, they cannot do everything.

There are proposals at the federal level to immediately reduce taxes and to provide direct pay to individuals who lose their job because of the Coronavirus pandemic.

We cannot possibly anticipate everything the future holds, but we absolutely do know Who holds the future.

In the words of our executive director and my state missionary colleague, Rick Lance: “The God of Psalm 46 will see us through this time of need. Remember, He is our refuge and strength, a very present help in times of trouble.”

Psalm 46:10 tells us to “be still and know that I am God.”

This is an opportunity in the midst of a frantic pace and the disruption of our routines to pause and remember He is God.

For more information, please contact State Missionary Jim Swedenburg at 1-800-264-1225, ext. 283, or (334) 613-2283, jswedenburg@alsbom.org

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