If your employment has been negatively affected by the spread of coronavirus (specifically, COVID-19), then you need to know how to apply for unemployment. You don’t necessarily need to be fired to receive these benefits. Suffering a drastic cut in hours may be enough.
In many areas and industries, people are experiencing drastic cuts in hours because of the rapid spread and fear of coronavirus. For example, restaurants in Seattle are reporting a 40-70% drop in traffic. CNN has reported that tens of thousands of airline employees may soon be temporarily out of work nationwide.
The people who are most affected by these cutbacks are the low and middle income earners who barely survive on a month-to-month basis under ideal conditions. These groups generally do not have a significant savings to rely on in the event of a disaster.
If your hours are cut due to coronavirus, you may be eligible for unemployment. Many people believe that you need to be fired from your job in order to draw unemployment benefits. As a result, many have complained that their employers are only cutting hours and not actually laying off employees.
That’s why we decided to put together this guide.
What are unemployment benefits?
Unemployment insurance benefits are paid by the state to the affected worker. Unemployment is generally available to people who have lost their job due to no fault of their own. You’ll have to meet certain criteria to qualify.
If you do receive benefits, you will generally receive a percentage of your income as a direct deposit from the state.
Who qualifies for unemployment?
Under ordinary circumstances, you may qualify for unemployment if you meet the following:
- You must be able to work.
This means that you cannot be ill or inured. You have to be physically able to work in order to receive unemployment benefits. Otherwise, you will need to apply for a different program (like disability benefits or medical leave).
- You must be available for work.
In order to receive unemployment benefits, you must be available for work at any time. If there is a schedule conflict, or you do not have adequate child care, or there is another barrier to your employment, you may not be eligible.
- You must be willing to accept suitable work.
Once you’re receiving unemployment, you can’t be picky. You have to be willing to accept suitable jobs that are offered to you.
- You must be actively seeking full-time work.
If you are still working for an employer but not receiving enough hours, this requirement may be waived.
- You must be out of work due to no fault of your own.
You cannot quit or cause your unemployment. However, if your hours have been reduced because of coronavirus, that’s not your fault and you may apply.
Yes! If you are working less hours than usual because of something that is not your fault, you may be eligible for partial unemployment benefits. Coronavirus is definitely outside of everyone’s control, so if your hours are reduced because of it you should apply right away.
If you are still attached to your employer but you are not working your regular hours, you may be eligible for partial unemployment benefits. These benefits won’t replace all of your lost wages, but will help you survive until you are able to resume your regular work schedule. It may not cover everything, but it can help with groceries, rent or other things. Something is better than nothing, after all.
In many states, you will not be required to participate in work search requirements as long as the hours reduction is temporary.
You can also claim unemployment in other COVID-19 scenarios.
On March 12, 2020, the US government issued new guidance regarding unemployment benefits during the coronavirus outbreak.
States can now choose to issue unemployment benefits under these specific circumstances:
- an employer temporarily closes or ceases operations due to coronavirus
- an individual is quarantined and expected to return to work after the quarantine
- an individual leaves employment due to risk of exposure or infection, or to care for a family member
You cannot receive unemployment at the same time that you are receiving paid sick leave or paid family leave. Those benefits are still considered a form of pay.
What do I need to apply for unemployment?
It will be faster and easier to apply for unemployment benefits if you are prepared before you begin the application.
You will need:
- Your Social Security Number (or Alien Registration Number and Work Permit Type)
- Name of your last employer
- Address of your last employer
- Phone number of your last employer
- Location where you went to work
- Dates of your last employment
- Earnings you made in the last week of your employment
- Other deductible income (such as vacation, severance, bonus pay, etc)
- Other misc paperwork (DD214 for former military, etc)
How do I apply for unemployment?
You will need to apply for unemployment with your state’s Department of Labor or Department of Workforce Services. Each state has a different agency that handles these applications. Due to coronavirus, many states are only accepting applications online.
These links should take you directly to your state’s application page:
Alabama has special rules for unemployment due to coronavirus. You may qualify if you meet any one of these criteria:
- You are quarantined by a medical professional or government agency
- You are laid off or sent home without pay for an extended period of time
- You are diagnosed with COVID-19.
- You are caring for a family member diagnosed with COVID-19
Please note that you will most likely not be eligible for benefits if you enter a voluntary self-quarantine. You will also not be eligible if you are working from home, because you are still working.
In California, you may be eligible for unemployment insurance if you meet one of these criteria:
- Your child’s school is closed due to coronavirus.
- Your employer has reduced your hours or closed due to coronavirus.
If you are sick or quarantined, you can file a Disability Insurance Claim.
If you are caring for a sick family member, you can file for a Paid Family Leave claim.
Colorado is requiring some employers to offer up to four days of paid sick leave to employees who have flu-like symptoms but haven’t received COVID-19 test results yet. This applies to specific industries that include leisure and hospitality, food services, child care, education, transportation, food service, certain home health providers, nursing home sand community living facilities.
These new rules last until April 10th, but may be extended if the state of emergency declared by the Colorado governor continues.
Connecticut has issued special rules during the COVID-19 crisis. You may be eligible for unemployment in Connecticut if you meet one of these requirements:
- Your employer requires that you stay home for 14 days.
- Your employer closes for 14 days.
In some limited circumstances, you may be eligible if you are diagnosed with COVID-19 but available for work. You are unlikely to be approved if a family member is diagnosed with COVID-19. The new guidelines repeatedly stress that you must be physically able and available for full-time work in order to receive unemployment benefits.