Unemployment During Coronavirus: Managing Expectations

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Over the next few months, more and more Americans will join the 3.3 million Americans who have already filed for unemployment due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Whether your hours were cut because you work in the service industry or you have been temporarily or permanently laid off due to the coronavirus, there are some things you need to know.  

Unemployment Benefits:

  • You will not be eligible for unemployment if you self-quarantine. If you are on a mandatory quarantine, that is a different story. Unemployment benefits are only available if you are unemployed due to no fault of your own.
  • Right now each state still has its own unemployment plan. The amount you would receive is still mandated by the state you live in and takes your employment and earnings history in account. The average benefit is between $300-$600 per week.
  • In addition to state unemployment benefits, you could be eligible for Federal unemployment benefits until July 31, 2020. Federal unemployment benefits would add an extra $600 per week on top of state benefits.
  • Unemployment will now be available for under-employed workers. This provision is to help Americans who have seen a cut in their hours due to coronavirus.  - You can now claim unemployment benefits for up to 39 weeks (an increase from 26 weeks) under the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Program.
  • If you are self-employed or work as an independent contractor (1099 employee), you are now be eligible for unemployment benefits, even though you would not have been eligible under the old plan.

The main point:

  • In the past, unemployment benefits would not replace your full income. Under the new plan, you could receive enough benefits between state and federal programs to replace your full working income.

When it comes to unemployment, the best advice is to just apply. You will not know what you could receive until you file a claim and it is either approved or denied. It will take time. You will get a determination letter within 21 days of your application and it will take longer to actually start receiving benefits.

Unemployment benefits are a state-administered benefit and each state is a little different. Please visit https://www.usa.gov/unemployment to view more information and find your state’s benefits page and where to apply.

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