County faces unemployment dilemma during coronavirus scheduling

By Buck Collier, Special Correspondent
Posted 4/22/20

HERMANN — Gasconade County taxpayers could be facing a strange cost associated with the effort to contain the coronavirus — unemployment benefits paid to county employees still …

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County faces unemployment dilemma during coronavirus scheduling

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HERMANN — Gasconade County taxpayers could be facing a strange cost associated with the effort to contain the coronavirus — unemployment benefits paid to county employees still working.

It’s a situation that has County Clerk Lesa Lietzow scratching her head trying to figure out.

Here’s the setting, as explained by Lietzow to the County Commission Thursday morning:

Several employees in the Courthouse have part-time jobs to earn extra money. As stay-at-home orders took effect and other measures were taken to slow the spread of the virus, their part-time jobs were lost.

The workers rightfully filed for unemployment benefits with the state.

The workers’ employers were notified by the state about the workers’ applications for benefits. That notification included county government, where the workers remained fully employed in their primary jobs.

Lietzow said she explained to the state Division of Employment Security that county government has nothing to do with the claims regarding the part-time jobs and that the workers continue to be employed by county government.

That distinction apparently does not matter to the state, Lietzow said, and the county could be on the hook to pay a portion of the worker’s unemployment benefits stemming from the loss of the part-time jobs. She said she was told the only option available to county government is to protest the awarding of benefits to the workers.

So, she told the Commission, she did just that. She went onto the state’s website to fill out the necessary form to protest the workers’ claims. However, she said, she ran into quite a hurdle. The form requires not only a starting date for a worker, but an employment end date, as well.

“They’re still working. There is no end date,” the county clerk said. Still, the form could not be completed and processed without including an end date.

So, she said, she made up an end date in order to submit the form — Jan. 1, 0000. “That might kick it out,” she told the commissioners.

But, in the end, it might not matter that much, she said. “Protests usually aren’t successful,” she said, about preventing the payment of unemployment benefits.

Now, all Lietzow can do is wait to hear from the state.

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