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The Latest Information About Unemployment Insurance Benefits

The Latest Information About Unemployment Insurance Benefits

More than 40 million people have lost their jobs since March of this year, due to the economic havoc brought by the COVID-19 pandemic. If you find yourself in the position where you have lost your job, you may be eligible for unemployment benefits.

Unemployment benefits are a form of insurance payout. Employers within a state pay into the unemployment insurance system, and eligible workers who are unemployed can draw payments out of the system.

When organizing your financial plan in order to apply for unemployment, remember to also consider other benefits that your state may offer, such as short-term disability insurance benefits, earned sick leave benefits, or paid family leave benefits. There is information on how to organize your finances and how to access these other benefits on our website and at CancerFinances.org.

Filing for Unemployment

Someone filing for unemployment benefits is often called a “claimant.”

Most states require a claimant to file an initial claim once, and then recertify every week or two weeks. These recertification claims often must include job search updates and any changes in other income (such as part-time hours worked). Self-employed people are not usually eligible in many states for unemployment benefits, but people who are underemployed or partially employed may be, depending upon the state and the situation. Self-employed or part-time work that is done during the time someone is claiming unemployment benefits will likely need to be reported as income.

Most claims are active for a year, but most states do not allow claimants to receive benefits for an entire year. Most states only allow claimants to receive benefits for a portion of a year, typically six months (or 26 weeks). There is a minimum and maximum weekly benefit amount available per state. Click here to learn more about unemployment benefits in your state.

Basically, a claimant must have earned enough money and/or worked a certain amount of time within the recent past to be eligible for unemployment benefits. Each state has its own formula for calculating the weekly dollar amount a claimant will receive. Most states determine this amount based on wages in the recent past, using a “base period.” For many states, base periods can be the first or last four of the preceding five calendar quarters. Using the claimant’s wages made in the base period, the state will then apply its formula to determine the weekly benefit amount for the claimant. Usually, it will be some fraction of these wages, with the fraction being set by law. Many states also offer options for an alternative base period, in case a claimant has an inconsistent work history.

Many states require claimants to search for work and report that they are searching for work. Some even require claimants to register with state-sponsored job search sites.

New Unemployment Insurance Benefits Due to the COVID-19 Pandemic

Recently, new federal laws were passed due to COVID-19, which greatly expanded unemployment benefits by both amount and duration. Due to these laws, most eligible applicants will be able to extend their unemployment claims by up to an additional 13 weeks and receive up to an additional $600 per week, until July 31, 2020.

For an in-depth explanation of the new unemployment benefits, read the COVID-19 Module of https://cancerfinances.org.

Most states have a COVID-19-specific link on their unemployment agency websites. Some states are opening additional phone lines for general inquiries, or for accepting claims, that are not typically available. Also due to COVID-19, many states are implementing specific schedules determining when people can file their initial claims: some are assigned certain days of the week based on last name, or Social Security number, etc.

Even outside of the new federal laws, several states are waiving additional requirements that would normally apply for those filing for unemployment benefits. For example: some states are attempting to automatically adjudicate an unemployment claim without corroboration from a claimant’s employer, if the employer has not responded within ten days, so long as COVID-19 is the reason for the claim. However, as states’ unemployment filing systems are heavily taxed due to the influx of COVID-19-related claims, there have been difficulties in delivering on these promises. Error messages are likely and may or may not require additional action. Check your state’s labor website to be sure you have seen any messages regarding how to appropriately respond to error messages. Many states are delivering updated information and suggestions on their labor departments’ social media pages about how to best file initial claims and weekly claims.

Claims related to COVID-19 will likely be determined on a case by case basis, and as so many rules have been lifted or changed recently, a claim that wouldn’t normally be accepted has a higher chance of being accepted now, so long as the claimant can prove and explain his or her situation.

The new $600 additional weekly benefit is set to end on July 31.  We are waiting to see if Congress will take action to provide additional help.  The situation is changing frequently.

Stay tuned to Triage Cancer’s blog, webinars, and www.CancerFinances.org for updated information regarding COVID-19 and other cancer-related issues.  

 

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Grace Drake
gd@triagecancer.org