Furloughed or laid off while on maternity leave during COVID-19? Here’s what you need to know

Investigations

FILE – In this Aug. 7, 2018 file photo, a doctor performs an ultrasound scan on a pregnant woman at a hospital in Chicago. A new study released Tuesday, Sept. 17, 2019, suggests when a pregnant woman breathes in air pollution, it can travel beyond her lungs to the placenta that guards her fetus. During pregnancy, particle pollution is linked to premature births and low birth weight, but scientists don’t understand why. (AP Photo/Teresa Crawford, File)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Christine King started maternity leave from Central Health in January. She worked as a dental assistant, but she’s still trying to drill down details on her unemployment benefits.

She was furloughed April 9.

“It says ‘We can pay you’ — so I don’t understand,” King says when looking at her Texas Workforce Commission correspondence inbox.

On Monday, TWC spokesman Cisco Gamez noted that more than 2.3 million Texans have filed for employment and $4.6 billion has been paid out in benefits.

The agency also noted that 396 claims, since January, have been confirmed as “identity theft fraudulent claims,” with the majority happening last month.

As for King and others on maternity leave during this pandemic, eligibility for unemployment benefits varies on a case-by-case basis.

“If the person was on paid maternity leave and was furloughed while on that leave, she may still be getting paid by her employer through paid time off or paid sick leave,” Gamez said. “In those cases, she may not be monetarily eligible to receive unemployment insurance while on paid maternity leave.”

But once off maternity leave, they’d likely be eligible for unemployment.

Moreover, according to TWC guidance, not being able to return to work due to lack of child care is covered as a reason to stay on unemployment.

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