Unemployment due to COVID-19: Who can Apply?

Unemployment due to COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic is a crisis that seems to have no end in sight. Every day, the number of people infected rises, and so does the number of fatalities. The country is also reeling under the financial impact caused by the pandemic. The crisis has affected businesses and their employees across industries.

In response to the financial crisis, the government launched various initiatives like stimulus payments and the Paycheck Protection Program. However, millions of people have opted for unemployment insurance during the pandemic.

The administration had signed a $2.2 trillion emergency relief bill, reset rules for benefits, and increased payout amounts. The CARES Act benefits have since expired. Therefore, you can apply for unemployment benefits, however, the additional $600 will not be included.

Unemployment Insurance: What is it and who is eligible?

In case of loss of employment, unemployment insurance ensures guaranteed payouts, which are usually weekly. This set amount helps till you find a new job. Each state will have its own criteria for eligibility and specific benefits.

Before the CARES Act, unemployment benefits were meant to be a temporary relief to help people with basic expenses. Self-employed people were not usually eligible for these benefits. That has changed now.

Unemployment benefits were meant for full-time employees who suffered loss of jobs. However, expanded coverage may now include part-time and self-employed workers as well. According to the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Program, freelancers, gig workers, independent contractors, and small business owners will also be eligible for benefits. A few categories that make you eligible for unemployment benefits are mentioned below.

  • Your workplace is shut due to the coronavirus.
  • College students who worked last year.
  • You cannot work because you need to care for children or other members who attended school or other facilities earlier.
  • A doctor has asked you to self-quarantine.
  • You or a member of your family is infected with the virus and cannot work.
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When it comes to workers who have been furloughed, or given a temporary leave of absence, the benefits vary from state to state. The first bill provided coverage to furloughed employees so that they could receive benefits.

Individuals who are working from home or are on paid leave will not qualify for these benefits. However, if you need to quarantine due to potential exposure, that makes you eligible. Though a few terms are unclear on the bill, it is advisable to apply, as the final decision regarding eligibility will depend on the states.

How long will these benefits be available?

Earlier, most states provided 26 weeks’ worth of unemployment benefits. The CARES Act extended the period by another 13 weeks. For example, residents of Florida received benefits 12 weeks earlier and will now receive benefits for 25 weeks. However, as of now, the expansion of this coverage period hasn’t been announced. The Pandemic Unemployment Assistance expires on December 31.

Applying for Benefits

Earlier, you would have to wait for at least one week before being able to receive benefits. However, after the stimulus package came through, many states waived off the waiting period.

Applying for benefits does not have a federal system. This means you will need to apply for any unemployment benefits through your state’s system.