The year 2020 has been an unprecedented year, with the outbreak of COVID-19 virus the Untied States pandemic has impacted unemployment rates to an all time high of 20%.
Many experts claim that the unemployment rate is even higher now than that of the Great Depression of the 1920’s. In this article we address the new unemployment policies and our first hand experience in filing for unemployment claims during the pandemic.
Impacts of COVID 19 on Unemployment Benefits
In an attempt to cease the spread of COVID 19, many businesses have been closed both temporarily and permanently.
This has led to the rise in the rate of the unemployment rate and inevitably the increase in requests for unemployment benefits.
To help curb the effect of the pandemic, some changes have been made to the laws surrounding unemployment benefits, making it more accessible to people.
Now, under the CARES Act, more categories of people are eligible for unemployment benefits, and for an extended period.
In addition to the groups of people normally eligible for unemployment benefits, under the CARES Act, other typically ineligible people also qualify.
Such people include self-employed individuals, people seeking part-time jobs, and individuals with insufficient wage history.
As a result of COVID 19, the eligibility period for receiving unemployment benefits has also been increased by thirteen weeks across all states in addition to the regular state benefits.
Unemployment Requirements, Who Qualifies for UI?
The eligibility for unemployment benefits differ according to state and mostly includes having worked for a certain number of weeks for a certain number of hours each week.
These rules also determine the amount of compensation unemployed persons will receive as well as how long they will receive the benefits.
To be sure of the eligibility requirements for unemployment benefits, you should check with your state’s unemployment department. Generally, to be eligible you must have lost your job due to no fault of your own.
You must also meet the minimum hours and earnings requirements for your state.
Bear in mind that you do not qualify for unemployment benefits if the reason for being jobless is as a result of getting fired for misconduct, quitting without a good cause, resignation due to illness, leave for marriage, self-employment, school, dispute, insubordination, harassment and so on.
Steps to Making an Unemployment Claim
Once you are certain that you meet the eligibility requirements to receive unemployment benefits, you should file an unemployment claim immediately.
To start the application process, you have to contact the department of labor in the state where you last worked and apply through the available means which could be online, over the phone, or in person.
If you currently live in a state different from where you worked or if you worked in more than one state, you can get information about how to file unemployment claims with other states from the unemployment agency in your present location.
During application, you will be required to submit some important documents that prove your citizenship as well as your employment and earning history.
It’s best to get these necessary documents ready before beginning the application process to ensure it goes smoothly. These are the documents and information you will likely have to provide:
- Your social security card
- Your driver’s license
- Information about all your previous employers in the past eight months, along with the company’s name and address, supervisor’s name and phone number.
- The Employer Registration Number (EIN) or Federal Employer Identification Number (FEIN) of your most recent employer, which can be found on your W-2 forms.
- The income amount you earned in your previous job and how often you were paid (e.g. daily, hourly, weekly, or monthly).
- How long you worked for your previous employer
- If you served in the military, your most recent separation form, that is, the DD 214 form.
- The reason for unemployment or reduced working hours.
If you are not a citizen of the U.S., you will also be required to provide your Alien Registration Number and perhaps your permanent resident card or resident alien card as proof that you are authorized to work in the United States.
Once you submit your claim through the available means, you should wait for at least three weeks to receive an approval, after which you may have to wait for another week to receive your first payment through direct deposit, check, or debit card.
Due to the current rate of unemployment as a result of the pandemic, you may have to wait longer to have your claim approved.
After approval, most states require you to claim your benefits weekly along with proof that you are making attempts to search for a job even if getting a job seems impossible.
Each state has its ways of verifying that you are actively searching for a job while receiving unemployment benefits.
To sum it all up, making an unemployment claim is basically a two-step process that involves
- contacting the department of labor in your state to apply, and
- submitting the required information.
Although the eligibility requirements for receiving unemployment benefits has been made a bit more flexible across the states, remember to check for the eligibility requirements in the state you were formerly employed, to ensure you qualify.
After making a claim and getting approved, be sure to keep searching for a job.