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labor States Tell Workers They'll Lose Unemployment Benefits if They Refuse to Return to Jobs

States tell workers they'll lose unemployment benefits if they refuse to return to jobs.

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Some states that are reopening parts of their economies have warned employees that they'll lose their unemployment benefits if they refuse to go back to work for their employers, even if they're worried about contracting the coronavirus.

"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," Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds (R) said Friday. "Therefore, they would not be eligible for the unemployment money."

Reynolds also said employers who have workers that refuse to return should file a report with Iowa Workforce Development.

On Monday, the governor announced that she was loosening social distancing restrictions in 77 of Iowa's 99 counties, effective May 1. 

"In the 77 counties, the proclamation permits restaurants, fitness centers, malls, libraries, race tracks, and certain other retail establishments to reopen in a limited fashion with public health measures in place," the governor's office said in a statement.

Reynolds said the 77 counties have either seen a steady decline in new cases or no new cases at all for the past two weeks, one of the main benchmarks the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention set for states wanting to reopen their economies.

The only exception for workers getting unemployment after not returning to work is if they are ill with the virus or taking care of a family member who has the deadly disease.

The situation is similar for workers in Texas, where Gov. Greg Abbott (R) on Monday gave the go-ahead for retail stores, restaurants, movie theaters and malls to reopen on Friday.

According to the Texas Workforce Commission, to qualify for unemployment benefits in the state, a worker must be “willing and able to work all the days and hours required for the type of work you are seeking."

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.

More than 25 million Americans have filed for jobless benefits since mid-March.