The coronavirus-induced economic shutdown has predictably resulted in record unemployment across the country. In response, the CARES Act has expanded unemployment benefits, both in terms of eligibility and the number and amount of payments. Here we answer some of the frequently asked questions people have about filing for unemployment under CARES Act guidelines.
Who is eligible to FILE FOR unemployment benefits under the CARES Act?
There are three categories of individuals who are eligible for unemployment insurance (UI) benefits under the CARES Act. Eligibility now includes those individuals who are not otherwise eligible for regular UI benefits, such as: self-employed workers, independent contractors, and gig economy workers. Those who are already receiving UI and those who have already exhausted their regular UI can receive an additional 13 weeks of benefits under the CARES Act.
You are eligible for the expanded unemployment benefits (with a valid Social Security Number) if you meet one of the following criteria:
- You cannot travel to work due to a quarantine order (by a healthcare provider or otherwise) or your company is closed as a result of COVID-19.
- You or a member of your household have been diagnosed with COVID-19 or are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and seeking a medical diagnosis.
- You are providing care for a family member or household member who has been diagnosed with COVID-19.
- You are caring for a child that is without other child care or out of school due to COVID-19.
- You were scheduled to begin your employment and either cannot now reach the job or do not have a job as a direct result of COVID-19.
Who is not eligible for new UI benefits?
Anyone who can still perform their jobs through telework, as well as those who are receiving paid sick or family leave.
How much in UI payments will I receive?
Your benefit amount is based on your monthly income over the last 18 months and increased by $600 per week.
How long will it take to start receiving benefits?
Under regular UI, many states have a waiting week before benefits are available. Some don’t. However, under the CARES Act, states are provided with additional funding from the federal government to waive the waiting week so you should receive your benefits sooner.
How long will I receive payments?
Most states provide 26 weeks of regular UI benefits. That will be extended by 13 weeks under the CARES Act.
I work part-time. Am I eligible for benefits?
Part-time workers are eligible for benefits based on their recent wages. They are also eligible to receive the additional $600 weekly benefit.
Am I eligible for benefits if I can’t work because a family member or I have COVID-19?
If you cannot work due to a COVID-19 illness or you need to care for a family member with the illness, you are eligible to receive UI benefits.
Am I eligible for benefits if I have to stay home with my children because their school is shut down?
If you have to stay home because a school, daycare, or another facility that normally takes care of your children has been shut down due to COVID-19, you are eligible for benefits.
Am I eligible for benefits if a health care provider advises me to self-quarantine due to exposure to COVID-19?
Am I eligible for benefits if I quit my job as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak?
It depends on the reason why you quit. If you left your job because a health care provider advised you to self-quarantine, or you are the primary caregiver for your children, and their school or daycare was closed, you are eligible for benefits.
If you quit for any other reason, such as concerns over health risk, you may or may not be eligible. Eligibility under these circumstances is considered on a case-by-case basis.
A friend told me I didn’t have sufficient income to qualify for unemployment benefits. Does the CARES Act provide assistance for people like me?
Yes. Under the CARES Act, you are covered even if your income was insufficient to qualify for regular UI. You will also qualify for the $600 additional weekly payment.
Can I work part-time and still receive UNEMPLOYMENT benefits?
If your weekly earnings have been reduced due to a cutback in hours, you could be eligible based on the difference between your current gross wages and your gross wages before the reduction.
Will I be required to actively search for work during the COVID-19 crisis?
Generally, under the CARES Act you must actively search for work as required by regular UI guidelines. However, the new law does require that states provide flexibility in meeting these requirements for individuals who are unable to search for work due to illness, quarantine, or movement restriction.
If I am temporarily laid off due to COVID-19, am I required to look for work to receive benefits?
No. If you were laid off due to COVID-19 related reasons and you expect to return to work for your employer, you are not required to look for work.
Am I eligible for unemployment benefits if I’m receiving paid sick or family leave?
If you are receiving paid sick or family leave, you are considered to be employed because you are still receiving pay.
I was recently hired for a job but the employer had to cut back staff due to COVID-19. Am I eligible for benefits?
Yes. If you recently gained employment and, for any reason related to COVID-19, are unable to go to work; you are eligible for benefits.
If I receive unemployment benefits under the CARES Act, will I be disqualified from other government assistance programs?
It’s possible that the $600 additional weekly benefit could count as income in determining your eligibility for means-test programs. However, it should not affect your eligibility for Medicaid.
Under normal circumstances, your state establishes its own guidelines for filing for and receiving unemployment insurance benefits. The guidelines under the CARES Act temporarily supersede state guidelines while the program is in effect. However, you should be familiar with your state guidelines because you still need to file through your state’s unemployment office.
How do I file for Maryland Unemployment?
You can file for Maryland unemployment through this link.
Review the qualifications then click "Begin Fling Your Claim."
Note, based on Maryland's Department of Labor site, the following process is recommended.
- If your last name starts with A - F, file your claim on Monday.
- If your last name starts with G - N, file your claim on Tuesday.
- If your last name starts with O - Z, file your claim on Wednesday.
- Claim filing is open to all last names by phone on Thursday and Friday and online Thursday through Sunday.
- Filing later in the week will not delay your payments or affect the date of your claim.
How do I file for DC Unemployment?
You can file for DC unemployment through this link.
Review the qualifications then click "File For Benefits" and then "File Your Claim Online" at the bottom of the page.
How do I file for Virginia Unemployment?
You can file for Virginia unemployment through this link.
Review the qualifications and then click on "English" at the bottom of the page.
How do I file for Unemployment in another state?
Click this link to find the link to your state's unemployment site.
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