Who qualifies for unemployment benefits during the COVID-19 pandemic?

Unemployment insurance can provide a temporary but vital replacement of earnings during the COVID-19 crisis. Unemployment insurance (UI) is a joint federal-state program. It’s administered by states and provides cash benefits to eligible unemployed workers. In response to COVID-19, qualifying for unemployment has become more flexible. Even if you didn’t qualify for UI in the past, you may qualify now.

Criteria to qualify for unemployment insurance

Normally, to qualify for UI, you must be unemployed due to a lack of available work and must meet minimum work and earning requirements. In light of COVID-19, federal guidelines have expanded UI to more workers. Your eligibility depends on your personal circumstances and your state’s policies. In general, assistance now includes workers who:

  • Can’t go to work because their employer temporarily closes due to COVID-19
  • Are diagnosed with or are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and seeking diagnosis
  • Are ordered to isolate or quarantine by a medical provider or public health official
  • Can’t work due to caregiving responsibilities directly related to the pandemic
  • Have exhausted their regular unemployment insurance benefits
  • Aren’t ordinarily eligible for unemployment benefits, including self-employed workers, gig workers, part-time workers, and workers with low earnings or limited work experience, who have lost work or income because of COVID-19’s health or economic consequences

UI is not available for those able to work remotely or receiving paid sick leave or other paid leave benefits for their customary work week.

What to expect when you apply

Weekly UI payments from early April through late July will have an extra $600. You may receive a prorated amount of this if you’re still working part-time. Federal guidelines also allow states to extend UI payments for additional weeks.

Individual states administer UI benefits and set different guidelines for eligibility. To check on your eligibility and apply for UI benefits, visit your state’s program online. Apply as soon as you can, and keep trying. Many states’ systems are outdated and overwhelmed by applications. Once you submit your application, it may take three or more weeks to receive your first benefit check.


Recommended Articles

How to Apply for SNAP Benefits

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (otherwise known as SNAP) is a state-run program. Each state has its own process for applying. You can go to your local SNAP office, or some states even allow you to apply online. If you aren’t sure, you can call the SNAP toll-free information number: 1-800-221-5689. Each state has its… Read more

What to expect when you apply for unemployment during COVID-19

I’m sorry to hear that you lost your job and now must navigate the challenges of Unemployment Insurance. You may encounter busy phone lines, an inability to speak to a live person, and state unemployment website issues. This will depend on what state you live in and when you filed. Presently over 42 million are… Read more

Five Ways to Manage Financial Stress During COVID-19

Even under the best circumstances, most of us deal with financial stress in our daily lives. With the additional stress that has been placed on many individuals and families as a result of COVID-19 from job loss or changes in income, and uncertainty about the future, financial worries are even more common. Dealing with your… Read more