Filing Unemployment: A Step-by-Step Guide

Key Takeaways
  • Expanded unemployment benefits through the CARES Act will cover millions of laid-off workers.
  • Unemployment will now pay benefits for many who would previously did not qualify, including part-time workers, those facing reduced hours, and the self-employed.
  • Benefits now cover employees out of work because of COVID-19 or those caring for dependents or the sick.
  • The program pays an extra $600 per week for four months in addition to state benefits.
  • Expanded benefits will last for 13 additional weeks.

The coronavirus pandemic has left millions of workers unemployed through no fault of their own. To address this growing need, the CARES Act expanded qualifications and increased payouts for millions of US workers, bringing payouts closer to full wages.



Can You Receive Benefits Under the CARES Act?

The CARES Act expanded the number of people who qualify for unemployment. For the remainder of 2020, if you fall into any of the following categories, you could receive unemployment benefits, if the state you live in also expands coverage for the following:

  • Employees laid off due to business closings, who are unable to look for work due to stay-at-home orders.
  • Workers who have reduced hours or part-time hours.
  • Someone who is diagnosed or has symptoms of the coronavirus.
  • Employees who left a job to take care for someone with the illness, or you lost wages because you left work to care for a dependent due to a school or childcare facility closure.
  • Self-employed individuals, including contractors and gig workers with taxable income in 2019.

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If You Have the Following Circumstances, You Will Not Receive Unemployment Under the CARES Act?

The Act does not offer benefits for someone who left a job due to the fear of getting the disease or anyone receiving pay, sick pay, or paid family leave from an employer.

Tipped workers, with unreported tips, will receive unemployment benefits based on taxed wages.

Undocumented work (such as jobs paid in cash), and anyone recently entering the workforce who is unable to find employment is also not covered.

What Timeframe Does the CARES Act Cover?

The CARES Act backdates coverage to January 27, 2020. It will pay unemployment claims until December 31, 2020.

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How Long Will Unemployment Benefits Last?

Along with expanded eligibility, the provision also extends benefits for 13 weeks beyond the state limits. States can offer unemployment payments for up to 26 weeks, meaning if you qualify for benefits, you could receive benefits for up to 39 weeks or nearly ten months.

How Much Income Will You Receive from Unemployment?

Every state uses a different formula to calculate benefits. In most cases, the benefit covers 50% or less of typical pay. The CARES Act aims to increase subsidies to nearly 100% of lost wages by increasing payouts for most applicants by $600 per week for up to four months, in addition to the state allotments.

Final Thoughts

The massive numbers of unemployed are overwhelming many state unemployment systems. Most states are waiving the waiting period to receive benefits and payments are often retroactive. A number of localities have also temporarily eliminated the “look for work” requirement, but you must certify each week to continue receiving assistance. Visit your state’s unemployment website for more details on your state plan.