January 12, 2021
Wyoming will not charge COVID-19 UI benefits to employer accounts through December 31, 2020
Wyoming Governor Mark Gordon issued an executive order that allows contributory employers to avoid having their unemployment insurance (UI) accounts charged COVID-19 UI benefits. The UI benefit charge relief is retroactive to March 19, 2020 (when the first statewide COVID-19 order was issued) and applies through December 31, 2020. According to the governor, the order may be extended into 2021 if conditions warrant and the state's UI trust fund stays solvent and can withstand additional UI benefits that are not charged against employer accounts. (Executive order 2020-12.)
Under the order, this temporary relief from COVID-19 UI benefit charges applies to contributory employers that were directly impacted by COVID-19 in such a manner as to cause employees to suffer unemployment. Also, an employer's employees must have been unemployed due to a COVID-19 illness that required isolation or quarantine or was the result of a statewide or local public health order that closed or restricted a business.
The executive order directed the Wyoming Department of Workforce Service to identify all employees who received COVID-19 UI benefits during the relevant weeks and to move the UI benefits these individuals collected from individual employer UI accounts to a COVID-19 noncharge pool account, thereby removing the UI benefit charges from the computation of employers state UI tax rates.
The order also states that employers will not receive relief from the charging of COVID-19 UI benefits if an employer is determined to be at fault for failing to provide timely or adequate responses to the Division's request for information related to a UI benefit claim. This provision is required to meet a federal requirement that employers not be relieved of UI benefit charge overpayments due to the failure of the employer or its agent to timely and/or adequately respond to UI benefit claim notices.
Executive order is the result of legislation enacted earlier in 2020
Legislation enacted in 2020 (SF 1002) allowed the governor to issue an executive order declaring that employers not be charged for COVID-19 UI benefits. Specifically, the bill language provided that:
"In addition to the list of benefits that shall not be charged to an employer's unemployment compensation account under W.S. 27-3-504(e), no benefits shall be charged to an employer's unemployment compensation account if the governor, by executive order outlining the basis for the order and with the adoption of adequate standards and safeguards to assure the continued actuarial soundness of the unemployment compensation fund, determines that the charges should not be charged due to circumstances related to the unique coronavirus COVID-19."(EY Tax News alert 2020-1970, 8-3-2020.)
Ernst & Young LLP insights
In a news release, the governor indicated that all applicable COVID-19 UI benefit charges were automatically removed from employer accounts and the 2021 SUI tax rate notices were to be issued by December 31, 2020. (News release.)
Because Wyoming is later than most other states in adopting the provision of not charging employer accounts for COVID-19 UI benefits, employers should carefully check their SUI rate notice to confirm that they are not being charged for UI benefits directly related to COVID-19.
According to the news release, employers wishing to appeal their 2021 SUI tax rate may do so by sending an email to email@example.com, by mailing an appeal to the Wyoming Department of Workforce Services, Attn. Kris Funk, 100 W. Midwest Ave., Casper, WY 82601, or by faxing the appeal to +1 307 235 3278. The appeal should include documentation, such as orders from the health department requiring the business to close due to COVID-19. State UI law requires that employer protests must be made within 30 days from the date on the rate notice.
For more information on the Department's response to COVID-19, go here.
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