The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has caused all levels of government to implement “social distancing” and “stay-at-home” orders aimed at preserving public health. These actions have had the unfortunate side effect of causing many businesses to close their doors for the foreseeable future and lay off or furlough workers, many of whom are filing for unemployment insurance. Here’s what you need to know about the process of filing for unemployment and recent changes in federal law that impact benefits & claims.
Who is eligible for unemployment insurance?
- Unemployment insurance benefits programs are administered at the state level, so eligibility criteria vary from state-to-state. These include requirements for wages earned or time worked during an established period of time known as a “base period” ― which in most states is the first four out of the last five completed calendar quarters before the time your claim is filed.
- You can find details about your state’s unemployment insurance program using the location selector on this page sponsored by the Labor Dept.
- In general, you will meet eligibility requirements if you are unemployed through no fault of your own, which means you were separated from your last job due to a lack of available work.
What may be helpful to have when applying?
- Information about the dates of your former employment.
- Other information about your former employer, including addresses & phone numbers.
- Information about your wages earned & hours worked.
- Patience & persistence: Because of the coronavirus pandemic, states are experiencing high volumes of unemployment claims, and states are also updating their unemployment websites to reflect recent changes to unemployment benefits.
- Unemployment claims can be filed online, over-the-phone, or in-person; although because of the pandemic states are encouraging filers to use online resources.
How does the CARES Act impact unemployment insurance?
- Signed into law by President Donald Trump on March 27, 2020, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security(CARES) Act contains several provisions that broaden & enhance unemployment across the country, and assist states with certain extensions of unemployment benefits.
- It creates a temporary Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program that would pay an additional $600 payment to each recipient of unemployment assistance in addition to what they receive for their states for up to four months. The PUA will remain in effect through the end of 2020.
- It allows states to extend unemployment benefits to groups who typically wouldn’t be eligible, such as self-employed workers, independent contractors, and workers in the “gig economy.”
- It allows states to pay unemployment benefits when an employer temporarily stops operations because of the pandemic; individuals are quarantined temporarily because of the pandemic; or an individual leaves employment due to risk of exposure or infection or to care for a family member.
- States which have “short-time compensation” programs to help workers whose hours were reduced instead of being laid off would get financial assistance from the federal government. The federal government would pay 100% of short-time compensation through the end of 2020 in states with existing programs; and 50% of the costs incurred by states which establish new programs. Workers getting short-time compensation benefits would receive a pro-rated unemployment benefit.
- Labor Dept. - Unemployment Insurance Guide
- CareerOneStop - Labor Dept. State Unemployment Locator
- Countable - How Does the CARES Act Help Individuals & Families
— Eric Revell
(Photo Credit: iStock.com / courtneyk)
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