Your Guide to Unemployment Benefits in These Strange Time
- Posted: April 9, 2020
If you’re unemployed or furloughed, whether due to COVID-19 or not, you’re not alone. Although exact figures have yet to be released, it is estimated that the current unemployment rate is around 13 percent. This unemployment rate is the highest since the Great Depression. The good news is that many Americans are eligible to receive unemployment benefits, with added benefits if they are no longer working due to COVID-19. Let us walk you through the details.
Determining if you qualify for unemployment
In many cases, if you were terminated or furloughed due to COVID-19, then you qualify for unemployment benefits. In addition, if the company you worked for closed due to COVID-19, you may be eligible for unemployment. There are other scenarios that allow you to qualify for unemployment benefits related to COVID-19. For instance, you may be eligible if you had to stop working because you’re a caregiver with a child whose school or daycare closed because of COVID-19. There is also flexibility if the unemployed person leaves work temporarily due to an individual quarantine. The person is also potentially eligible if he or she left work to care for a person ill with COVID-19. Benefits are also made available to those who are self-employed who may not have qualified previously for unemployment benefits.
Each state has their own wage and work requirements for unemployment eligibility. For instance, in New Jersey, you must have earned a minimum of $200 per week during 20 or more weeks in the past year. You are also eligible if you earned at least $10,000 during the base year.
How to apply for unemployment
Each state has its own dedicated portal to apply for unemployment benefits. As soon as a person loses employment or is furloughed, he or she should start the application process. In the majority of cases, you apply for unemployment benefits in the state that you work in, even if it isn’t your state of residence. Although unemployment benefits used to be available for in-person applications, many states are now only accepting applications online or via telephone. Through the application process, you will have to provide certain information in order to allow the agency to claim unemployment. Before applying, expect to provide the following:
- Social security number or alien registration number
- Pension information if receiving one
- Amount of severance pay if receiving any
- Expected return date
- Dates of employment and company address
Each state has different formulas used to calculate your unemployment benefits. Many states provide 2/3 of your normal pay as part of your unemployment benefits. However, a cap is placed on benefits. As an example, Pennsylvania has a maximum weekly benefit amount of $573. For each pay week, you will need to certify through the unemployment office to receive your benefits. Payments are usually made through direct deposit, check, or a debit card.
Additional unemployment benefits
You can stay on unemployment as long as you continue to claim your weekly or bi-weekly payments. Each state has different rules for the length of unemployment, but most states allow for benefits to be paid up to 28 weeks. Depending on the length of the pandemic crisis in the United States, these terms are subject to change. Extensions of unemployment are evolving due to the pandemic and less restrictions are placed on claims. Through the CARES Act, the federal government is allowing states to extend benefits for another 13 weeks. Under the act, an additional $600 per week is being paid through unemployment benefits. This extra $600 per week payment is currently eligible through July 2020.
Unemployment laws are consistently changing as a response to COVID-19. Always check with your state agency to review the most current eligibility requirements.