How to apply for unemployment benefit

Just a few months ago it was unthinkable for many people to register as unemployed – and now suddenly not anymore. Millions of Americans have reported unemployed in the weeks after the economy began to close in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

This increase in claims for unemployment benefits has overwhelmed the employment offices, which were completely unprepared for the advent of Internet traffic and telephone calls. Despite hiring additional call center staff, extending phone hours, and even assigning days of the week by last name, state efforts were insufficient to meet demand.

Those able to get through and receive benefits have been able to draw in an additional $ 600 per week over and above their state’s allowance due to special federal laws encouraging them. But this bonus is due to expire at the end of July.

The unfortunate reality is that many unemployed feel that they are overwhelmed by the complex unemployment system on their own. Obstacles like crashed websites and hours on hold continue to cause delays as rents and bills come due and less and less money is left to pay them.

Whether you are applying for unemployment benefits for the first time or waiting for the money to be received, the process can be complicated.

Who is entitled to unemployment benefit?

Whether or not you can collect unemployment benefits depends on a few different factors that vary by state. The Department of Labor lists three general criteria for being eligible for unemployment benefit:

  1. You must be unemployed through no fault of your own. For example, you cannot apply for unemployment after quitting your job or being fired for misconduct.
  2. You must meet the hourly and / or wage requirements. Each state has its own requirements for the amount earned or hours worked before qualifying for unemployment.
  3. You must meet any additional requirements for your state. These requirements can be viewed on the CareerOneStop website.

How the CARES Act can help you

However, many of the normal rules are temporarily suspended due to the emergency laws recently passed by Congress.

One of the many provisions of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act is Federal Pandemic Unemployment (PUA), which provides benefits to some self-employed and independent contractors. These workers – hairdressers and Uber drivers, for example – have typically been excluded from unemployment programs. Job loss for part-time workers is also covered by the CARES Act. People diagnosed with COVID-19, a household member who tests positive for COVID-19, or are unable to work due to quarantine may also be eligible.

Your state manages and determines your regular unemployment benefits, including how much you receive. However, another new law called Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (PUC) provides an additional $ 600 per week for those who are also entitled to regular unemployment. The additional $ 600 is automatically paid out when you receive your regular unemployment benefits. This expires immediately on July 31st.

In addition, those who have exhausted their state’s unemployment benefit can now extend their reference period for an additional 13 weeks.

Unemployment before and after pandemic

Prior to the pandemic, most states required those collecting unemployment benefits to meet weekly criteria in order to continue to be eligible. These included:

  • Report claims weekly or every other week
  • Regularly answer questions about suitability such as: B. on job offers or earned wages
  • Register for work eligibility by creating an online account and uploading your resume
  • Prove your job search regularly
  • Report to your local employment office regularly

However, many states have relaxed the restrictions as the Department of Labor provides guidance on flexibility in requirements. Given the COVID-19 crisis, the requirements listed may be out of date in your state. Many states, such as Washington, have temporarily lifted these requirements to expedite the process and make it easier to obtain benefits. “The new laws allow many of the previous tough requirements to get unemployed to be lifted,” said Scott Behren, an unemployment benefit attorney and owner of the Behren law firm.

More facts about unemployment

  • In most states, you can expect benefits for a maximum of 26 weeks. According to the CARES Act, this can be extended under certain circumstances.
  • You can also expect income tax to be deducted from your unemployment benefit.
  • They don’t know how much your state will give you until you apply, and each state uses its own formula. Usually this is determined based on a percentage of your income over the past 12 months.
  • Each state calculates its maximum weekly benefit amount (MWB). If your weekly payout exceeds MET, the MET amount will be used by default.

Pro tip

The CARES Act extends beyond the usual criteria. Unemployment attorney Scott Behren advises: “When in doubt, just apply.”

How to apply for unemployment benefit

With the overwhelming majority of unemployment offices closed due to social distancing orders, filing for unemployment in person is no longer an option until local governments decide it is safe for them to reopen. The only remaining options are to apply over the phone or online.

But it appears that not all states allow claiming unemployment benefits over the phone. For example, the Connecticut Department of Labor website has a disclaimer in giant red letters that read, “No telephone assistance is available for jobless claims. Please do not request unemployment benefits. “

Even if your state allows workers to register for unemployment over the phone, it is a good idea to apply online as the first option, as hours of waiting are reported across the board. If your state’s unemployment benefit website doesn’t load or keeps crashing, don’t panic. Try all day long to see if the web traffic slows down later. If you continue to have technical issues, try to access the online application application during off-peak hours between midnight and 5 a.m.

Be prepared when you submit

When applying for unemployment, you will need to have a few documents on hand so that you can submit all the necessary information to your local employment office. The exact information required varies by state, but generally includes:

  • Social security card
  • Driver’s license or state ID
  • Mailing address
  • Phone number
  • Bank account information
  • Immigration card, if not a US citizen

Best Methods for Admission

The bottom line is that the best way to get unemployment benefits is to meet all of the unemployment criteria in your state. However, since the admission requirements are expanded in many cases, it can’t hurt to give it a try.

“If in doubt, just apply,” says Behren.

Be aware that an incomplete application can delay your case or lead to a complete rejection. When applying for unemployment, be careful not to leave anything blank. If you don’t know the answer to something, wait to get the file until you have it.

What to expect after applying for unemployment

After you’ve submitted your application for unemployment benefit, it’s a waiting game. Due to current backlogs, it can take weeks before you receive the status of your application. Your state will likely make a decision by mail and / or through its online portal. Check back often for updates and to make sure you don’t have to provide additional information to finish processing your application.

Dealing with delays and rejections

Delays in the processing time for unemployment benefits can be expected as states are catching up on the backlog in applications. Behren, who practices in Florida, said he was frustrated with the delays. “There’s not much you can do to make them move faster, but I would probably try occasionally to log into the system and check the status of your claim to make sure they aren’t waiting for more information from you to process it” says Behren.

It is even more frustrating to wait weeks for an application to be processed only to find that it has been denied. The rule of thumb: always appeal. While it is difficult to pinpoint exactly how many workers will succeed in the appeal process, it is more likely than ever that states will mistakenly deny unemployment benefits due to ever-changing requirements.

“Unfortunately, the systems were not prepared for the new eligibility requirements and claims were rejected based on the then current eligibility requirements,” says Bobbi Kloss, director of human capital management for the Benefit Advisors Network (BAN), a consulting firm for insurance agencies.

It is also possible that you submitted your initial application too early, before new forms of protection were introduced that now entitle you to unemployment benefits. “If employees were not eligible for benefits for the first time prior to COVID-19, they should review Pandemic Unemployment Insurance Eligibility Guidelines to see if they now have a qualifying reason, and then follow state guidelines to either appeal the decision and / or to apply again. ”advises Kloß.

Just pay attention to the deadline for filing a complaint. Missing deadlines is an easy way to undermine your chances of success in changing the outcome.