Millions of newly released Americans are now wondering how they can access state unemployment benefits when they struggle with rent, groceries, and other everyday necessities. Vox is here to help readers navigate through bureaucracy.
Congress has significantly expanded unemployment insurance under its historic $ 2 trillion CARES law, which was legally signed by President Donald Trump. Dismissed or vacationed Americans applying for unemployment in their states receive an additional $ 600 per week in addition to the existing government benefit. The average benefit in the US is $ 385 a week, but some states are more generous than others.
As my colleague Dylan Matthews recently explained, there are some important things you should know about this new law. First and foremost, $ 600 is added to each weekly unemployment check. Second, more people are now entitled to unemployment insurance than before. The law creates a new program called Pandemic Unemployment Assistance for freelancers, independent contractors, or gig-economy workers who were previously not eligible for unemployment insurance. These programs provide people with increased support for four months ̵
1; late March to July. The law also facilitates access to benefits by foregoing some states’ job search requirements.
“The UI provisions in the CARES law were some – if not the – strongest provisions of the law,” said Heidi Shierholz, a labor economist from the Economic Policy Institute, and was formerly part of the Obama administration. “It will alleviate the plight of millions of people.”
Many states warn that they do not yet know when the additional federal money will come up, but call on newly released people to file a lawsuit and start the process. The process could be somewhat more complex for contractors or self-employed people who need to apply for pandemic unemployment assistance and are waiting for states to implement these programs.
Because so many people are applying for unemployment at the same time, this leads to frustrating delays. Many people have clogged phone lines and some government unemployment websites are crashing with high demand, including New York and Florida.
“The system is currently a bit congested,” said Michele Evermore, senior policy analyst at the National Employment Law Project. “People should keep trying.” Evermore noted that this could change in the coming weeks when some workers are told they are not eligible this week as states receive federal funding and the unemployment pandemic support program is in place.
“States need resources to manage the user interface,” House spokeswoman Nancy Pelosi told Vox at a press conference on Thursday. “Some are much better prepared than others or just have a different schedule. One of the things we may need to do is make more resources available to government agencies that do this. “
Vox frequently asked questions from readers and contacted experts to answer them. Here is our guide to access to unemployment benefits, who is insured, and more.
Your questions about unemployment insurance answered
How much does my state offer in basic unemployment benefits? And where do I apply?
Here is a table that shows the minimum and maximum weekly unemployment benefit for each state, as well as a link to each state’s employment office. People can apply online or by phone, although many states recommend online applications due to busy phone lines.
Each state has its own guidelines, but due to high demand, some states advise people to call on certain days or times, depending on the alphabetical order of their last names or the order of their social security numbers. Check your country’s website to see if there are any policies in place.
Who is eligible for this extended unemployment insurance program?
The CARES law opened up unemployment benefits to a number of people who were not previously eligible, including gig economy employees such as drivers for Uber or Lyft, freelancers and independent contractors. Part-time workers who have lost their jobs due to the corona virus are insured, as are those who had to stop working to look after a sick family member or to teach their children at home.
Conclusion: If coronavirus is responsible for your layoff, vacation, or drastic reduction in your working hours, or prevents you from looking for work because fewer employers are hired, you have a good chance of getting these enhanced benefits. It is worth applying, even if you are not sure whether you are insured.
Who is not eligible for this extended unemployment insurance program?
People who work from home but still receive full wages are not entitled to benefits. Immigrants without papers are not eligible. Newcomers are also not like the youngest graduates because they don’t work long enough to apply for benefits.
What documents do I need to register for unemployment insurance?
States request some basic information during the application process, including:
Your name, birthday and social security number
Information about your last employer, including company name, manager’s name, address, and phone number
The last date you worked on and the reason why you stopped working
Your gross income in the last week you worked (starting on Sunday and ending on your last working day)
You may also be asked about the other employers you have worked for in the past 18 months, including employer name, address, date of employment, gross wages earned, hours worked per week and hourly rate, and the reason why you no longer work.
This means that documenting your past earnings and wages is vital. This information can be found on your W-2s, Paystubs or bills if you are a freelancer or an independent contractor.
When will the additional $ 600 appear in my unemployment check?
This is not really known yet. Experts told Vox that it could take a few weeks because the U.S. Department of Labor will need some time to coordinate with government employment agencies to get the money flowing. Freelancers and independent contractors could potentially benefit longer as they wait for the government to launch a completely new program.
“With the $ 600 with existing benefits, people should be able to receive them within three weeks,” said Andrew Stettner, a senior fellow at the Century Foundation. “The disaster benefits, it will take a little time to develop the recording.”
How much could I get over four months? And what happens if the extra money is delayed?
In total, the additional $ 600 per week over a four-month period adds up to around $ 10,000. If people’s paychecks are delayed (which is likely to be the case), employees receive retroactive pay on their first paychecks to compensate for the delay time.
“It’s a way to bring a lot more money to people who really need it,” said Stettner. “It has the ability to prevent some of the really harmful parts of unemployment: reducing your savings, food security, problems with the maintenance of your home”
What is the difference between vacation and discharge? Do employees on leave qualify for the extended unemployment insurance program?
Unlike a more permanent layoff, a vacation is a temporary period of unemployment – with the promise that if the economic conditions improve, the worker will return to work. The big difference, however, is that employees on leave waive their wages but keep other benefits such as health insurance. Employees on leave due to a corona virus are entitled to extended unemployment insurance.
What is the process for gig economy employees or independent contractors?
Freelancers, gig economy workers, and independent contractors are applying for unemployment insurance as part of a new program called Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, which is still under development by the Department of Labor and states and may take longer to be ready. When the program is available, it can be found on government unemployment websites where people request a regular user interface. Visit your state’s website for instructions on when and how to apply if you fall into this category.
“Gig employees have to apply for PUA first, and then they get the $ 600,” said Stettner. “This is the new program part of the law and will take the longest – the pandemic program for Gig Worker et al.”
What documents do freelancers or independent contractors who rely on bills or cash need to prepare to receive benefits?
It is important to keep a record of your previous income and wages as a freelancer, self-employed entrepreneur or self-employed person to help you apply for unemployment. Keep records of how you get your money and how much you’ve paid each month in the past (old tax returns and invoices are good examples).
“Whatever documents you have, how you get your money would be helpful,” added Evermore. If people do not have any documents, they can submit certificates of their wages to the employment offices in good faith – but documents are preferred.
If you work in two part-time jobs and lose one, can you get benefits for the lost job while you are still working on the other?
Although part-time workers are entitled to extended benefits, the answer to this question depends on whether weekly income from the second job erases the part-service credit you get through unemployment, Stettner said.
“In the simplest sense, they are less likely to receive benefits the closer the payment of the second part-time job they have to the first part-time job they lost. The bigger the difference, the more likely it is to get benefits, ”he said.
What if you just got a job that is suspended or in the air due to corona virus?
You are also entitled to the extended unemployment benefit here. Having documentation here is also important if you can get it; For example, if you have both your offer and a written statement to cancel or postpone it, which you can send to your state’s employment office, this can be helpful when you apply for unemployment.
“However you find that your offer has been withdrawn, keep it handy,” said Evermore.
What if you were unemployed before the crisis and had no luck finding work? Can you apply for benefits even if your old benefits have expired?
Yes. Anyone who has exhausted their regular unemployment insurance can receive an extension of their benefits by 13 weeks. Once that extension is exhausted, workers can apply for pandemic unemployment benefits, Evermore said. “It can take up to 39 weeks in total,” she added.
What is the situation for new or future university graduates who cannot find a job?
People who are a few months away from college and looking for jobs are more likely to be in trouble because of their limited work experience.
A recent House Democrats bill provides for college graduates to qualify for a so-called “jobseeker’s allowance,” about half of the benefits available to the rest of the workforce. But if Congress doesn’t pass a regulation, the youngest graduates are in a difficult situation.
What about church workers, including ministers, rabbis, or imams?
In many states, municipalities do not pay unemployment insurance and workers are not entitled to unemployment. If the employer does not voluntarily participate in unemployment insurance, church, synagogue or mosque employees are unlikely to be eligible in most states.
However, Stettner and Evermore said it depends on how the U.S. Department of Labor interprets the language of the CARES Act. If the new pandemic program is treated like a standard disaster relief program, church, synagogue and mosque staff could be covered – but this will not be determined until Labor provides more information on how to implement the program.