Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal
Unemployed New Mexicans can expect a slew of changes to their unemployment benefits in the coming weeks and months, starting with the return of a mandate requiring them to search and apply for jobs.
The New Mexico Department of Workforce Solutions held a webinar Wednesday explaining the decision to reinstate the work search requirement next week, the transition from state to federal unemployment benefits and other changes to the system.
“These benefits are not going to last forever, they’re going to run out,” said Workforce Solutions Secretary Bill McCamley during the event. “And that’s one of the reasons it’s really important for you to start looking around.”
New Mexico, like many states, waived the requirement that people receiving unemployment benefits must search and apply for work in March, as some businesses were required to close under an emergency order intended to contain the spread of the virus.
Earlier this month, however, the state announced that New Mexicans receiving standard unemployment benefits must again start documenting at least two work searches per week beginning on Sunday. Beginning on Oct. 25, McCamley said recipients must report those work searches on their weekly certifications.
“It’s very important for people to start getting in the rhythm of looking for work,” McCamley said.
Michelle Velarde, field operations manager for DWS, said attending upcoming workshops hosted by New Mexico Workforce Connection on topics like building a résumé and developing soft skills will also count toward the job search requirement.
Velarde advised people with pre-existing medical conditions, concerns about child care and other issues that make returning to work a challenge to note that information on their certification, which allows the department to connect them with remote work.
“There are so many great work-from-home positions out there,” Velarde said.
Additionally, McCamley provided an overview of the transition from state to federal unemployment benefits for those who qualify.
As of Wednesday 55,447 New Mexicans are receiving benefits through the state’s standard unemployment program, which expires after 26 weeks. McCamley said that’s why many claimants who went on unemployment around the time the pandemic reached New Mexico are beginning to transition onto a pair of 13-week extended benefits programs established earlier this year. Currently, about 23,000 New Mexicans are on one of the two federal programs. About 34,400 others receive benefits through the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program, which helps self-employed people, gig workers, and other nontraditional workers, according to DWS.
McCamley said the federal programs are slated to expire at the end of the year unless Congress approves another stimulus package, which would leave New Mexicans who have used up their state benefits without many options.
“Once those benefits are expended, there’s nothing else that we are able to do right now,” McCamley said.