COVID + Credit: Unemployment and the Covid Pandemic
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As of March 2020, the US is facing a sudden spike in unemployment benefits applications as the Covid pandemic forces many Americans into self-isolation and many businesses across the country to furlough workers or even shutter their doors. In light of these extraordinary events, the majority of states have temporarily expanded access to unemployment for those out of work because of the virus.
There are two main types of benefits available: First, Pandemic Unemployment Assistance covers those Americans unable to work because of the Coronavirus, including independent contractors, gig workers, sick people, and those caring for someone who has the virus. The second category is an extra $600 per week in unemployment benefits over the next four months, for those who qualify for unemployment assistance in their state.
In addition, most states have expanded their unemployment assistance programs to provide for more Americans directly affected by the Covid pandemic quarantines and closures. If you have been kept from work due to one of the following circumstances related to the pandemic, you may be eligible for unemployment in your state:
- If you are sick or have been exposed to Covid-19;
- If you must care for someone in your immediate family who is sick with Covid-19;
- If you cannot reach your place of work because of a quarantine;
- If you are an at-risk individual who needs to self-quarantine in order to avoid getting sick.
If you have been kept from work due to the following circumstances, it's possible that you will be eligible for unemployment assistance. However, access will vary by state and individual circumstance. You may qualify if:
- You are unable to work because you must care for a child because of a school closure;
- You are working significantly reduced hours due to the Covid pandemic.
If you continue to work remotely for your employer and continue to receive a paycheck, it's unlikely you'll be eligible for unemployment. If you are asymptomatic (showing no signs of the disease) and not within a high-risk demographic but choose to stay home from work, you will also likely not be covered by unemployment. Additionally, some states are currently unable to provide unemployment to individuals who must stay home to care for children who are home due to school closures.
Also, many states have updated their unemployment assistance requirements to include those who have been affected by temporary closures in a variety of industries, such as service and hospitality. If you have been affected by a temporary closure but anticipate returning to work in the future, you generally do not have to look for alternative job opportunities while receiving unemployment assistance. Instead you only need to:
- Be able to work;
- Stay in contact with your employer; and
- Be available to work when your employer calls you back to work.
As you're going through the unemployment assistance application process, you should know that many states have updated their systems to provide unemployment materials more quickly and safely to individuals. Many states are currently waiving the waiting periods between the time you file your application for unemployment assistance and when those benefits are received so that applicants can receive the funds they need as soon as possible. You're also encouraged to fill out your unemployment application online rather than going to the office in-person to avoid the spread of Covid-19. Similarly, if your state's unemployment assistance process would normally require you to attend in-person seminars to maintain your unemployment status (such as seminars on how to apply for jobs, learn how to update a resume or practice interviewing) these seminars may have been waived due to federal social distancing guidelines.
Please note that although the above measures have been enacted by many state and local governments, the exact availability and rules of unemployment assistance will be dependent on the state in which you live. Please refer to the list below to find unemployment information relevant to your state. Where possible we've linked directly to information relative to Covid-19, but have otherwise linked to each state's department of labor & employment.
For federal rules, please visit the Department of Labor's page on COVID-19 and the American Workplace.