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As businesses start to open, workers weigh health risk versus paycheck — and potential loss of unemployment benefits

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As businesses start to open, workers weigh health risk versus paycheck — and potential loss of unemployment benefits

As counties move toward reopening parts of the economy, employers are calling their workers back — but some are saying no.

In April and May, Pennsylvania employers filed 540 reports of people who refused to return to work. Of those, more than 300 reports came in the last week and a half. […]

Now, employees being called back to work face an extra decision when deciding whether to accept the offer: Is the paycheck worth the potential health risk?

“The issue here is if the work made available to you is unsafe, and if there is an abnormally high risk to your health and safety, was work then really made available to you?” said Wendell Young, president of United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1776, a union that represents sectors ranging from retail to meatpacking. […]

With an additional $600 weekly tacked on to any eligible individual’s unemployment benefits through a new federal program that runs through July, some people could even be bringing in more money through unemployment compensation than they would in their normal paycheck.

Now, as businesses start to reopen, state unemployment centers looking at claims requests are adding another set of considerations. Government officials must make sure no one is forced back to work in unsafe conditions and no one is left without benefits they are eligible for — while also making sure no one is granted benefits for simply turning down a job. […]

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