How To File For Unemployment During COVID-19

As of this writing, the overall American economy appears to be operating at 82% of pre-pandemic levels. Many industries have started to pick up again and there’s reason to expect recovery to continue. The newly introduced vaccine is another signal for hope. 

But despite the amount of progress, the pandemic is still very much ongoing and continuing to affect millions of Americans financially.

If you’ve recently been laid off or furloughed due to COVID-19 and you’re seeking financial relief, rest assured that the government is continuing to support unemployment benefits for workers that have been impacted. 

Take a look at our guide on filing for unemployment during COVID-19. We’ll go over top answers for some of the most pressing questions you may have. 

Who Qualifies For Unemployment 

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act was signed into law on March 27. As of December 27, the president signed a second, $900 billion stimulus bill that will extend unemployment assistance for another 11 weeks. This second round of stimulus includes ongoing unemployment insurance for many workers impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, including self-employed individuals.

You can use careeronestop.org to find information that applies to your state. It’s offered by the U.S. Department of Labor to help you determine if you qualify. Here’s how it works: 

  • Visit the homepage, hover over “COVID-19 Unemployment Insurance Info”, and select “File for unemployment.”
  • Review the general information. 
  • Scroll down to and select your state from the dropdown menu.
  • Links will appear that direct you to the general information and online filing pages.

If you qualify, you will receive a portion of your earnings over the last 52 weeks. This amount is capped at the maximum for your state and subject to income tax. Unlike the original CARES Act which offered an additional $600 per week on top of your state’s unemployment benefits, the new stimulus bill will only pay an additional $300 per week until March 14, 2021. 

Below we’ve included general information for your reference. 

People Who Have Been Laid Off or Let Go 

If your employment was terminated as a result of COVID-19, you might qualify for unemployment benefits. Unemployment benefits also extend to those who were slated to start a job but couldn’t because the company scaled back or ceased operations. 

Furlough

Furloughs are temporary layoffs, and workers are sometimes allowed to return to their positions. If you’ve been furloughed as a result of COVID-19, you may be eligible for unemployment benefits. 

Independent Contractors

The second round of stimulus maintains ongoing unemployment benefits to independent contractors. You may qualify for relief under the $900 billion bill that grants benefits to independent contractors, gig workers, and individuals who care for sick relatives or are out of work due to a coronavirus diagnosis or quarantine from direct exposure.

How To Apply For Unemployment

You need to file a claim with the unemployment insurance program in the state in which you worked in order to receive benefits. Because of the ongoing pandemic, you will most likely have to file online or over the phone. You can find your state’s unemployment insurance office contact information here

Here’s what to expect when applying for benefits: 

1. Gather all the information you’ll need.  

Expedite the filing process by having the following on hand: 

  • Your Social Security card or documentation that displays the number 
  • Copies of your 2 most recent pay stubs
  • Proof that you’ve been laid off or furloughed by your employer

It’s also best to check your state’s unemployment website to determine if additional information or documentation is needed to file a claim. 

2. Decide how you want to file. 

Filing online is the most efficient way to move forward. If you call the unemployment hotline, expect wait times that span several minutes or even hours. 

When completing the claim, refrain from using the word “fired” if an explanation is required. It conveys to the person processing your claim that you’re responsible for what happened instead of the economic impact of COVID-19. 

3. Check the status of your claim.

You can monitor your claim through your state’s online unemployment portal. If possible, check on the status daily to ensure they have everything needed to process and approve your claim. 

What if your claim is denied? Promptly file an appeal to plead your case. The notice will include instructions on how to move forward. 

Unemployment Wait Times During COVID-19

Once your claim is complete and you’re approved for benefits, expect to receive your first payment in 2 to 3 weeks. You can choose to have your payments deposited directly into your bank account, through a state-issued prepaid debit card, or through paper checks. 

Most people opt for direct deposit because it’s the easiest and fastest way to receive payments. Plus, when you open a RoarMoney bank account, you’ll be able to get paid up to 2 days early!

Know that delays may occur in states that are inundated with claims, so you may experience longer than usual wait times until the unemployment agents can clear the backlog. 

Remember that providing incorrect or misleading information on your claim can further delay your unemployment payments. 

Apply for Unemployment Benefits Right Away!

If the COVID-19 pandemic has caused you undue financial hardship, you may qualify for unemployment benefits. Check your eligibility and file a claim right away. In the meantime, consider a loan from MoneyLion until your benefits arrive to weather the storm. 

You can get an interest-free cash float of up to $250 with Instacash. There are no credit checks or hidden fees, so you may qualify with less than perfect credit. Or consider the Credit Builder Loan from MoneyLion if you need a little more to hold you over. You may qualify for a loan up to $1,000, other premium financial tools, and boost your credit rating for a small monthly fee.

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