Most American people are filing for unemployment benefits for the first time in their lives owing to the layoffs and economic downturn that occurred as a result of the coronavirus outbreak.
5.2 million jobless claims Americans filed in the last week, pushing the four-week total to more than 22 million due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The new report, which covers the week ending April 11, puts cumulative job losses for the past month well ahead of those during the 18-month Great Recession of 2007-2009, until now judged the worst downturn since the Great Depression.
The following is a comprehensive guide on the unemployment benefits workers received due to the coronavirus.
What is the Government Doing? What Is the CARES Act?
The government has sought to cushion the population from the effects of the coronavirus pandemic. President Trump has signed an unprecedented stimulus package.
The following are some of the important things that the government has implemented so far or are under consideration for people.
Congress passed the CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security) Act with bipartisan and overwhelming support, and Donald Trump signed it on 27 March 2020. This economic relief package amounts to 2 trillion dollars and reflects the Trump administration’s commitment to safeguarding American citizens from the economic and public health repercussions of the prevailing COVID-19 pandemic.
The CARES Act provides direct and quick economic help for American families, workers, and small-sized businesses, and protects jobs for the nation’s industries.
The CARES Act’s primary components include:
- A considerable extension of unemployment benefits include an extension of people entitled to benefits and an increase in weekly benefit levels for the coming four months (an extra 600 dollars/week) and in the number of weeks of unemployment benefits that a person can get (extended to 13 weeks).
- A Coronavirus Relief Fund equivalent to 150 billion dollars to assist in addressing the sizeable budget holes coming up in localities and states. This is a very vital 1st step, but states will have to avoid making considerable cuts in the budget, like by firing professors and other staff, steps that will exacerbate the slow recovery and the recession.
- Substantial direct payments to middle and low-income families of 500 dollars for kids and 1,200 dollars for most adults. It is unfortunate, however, that millions of families (low-income ) that do not otherwise need to file a tax return will have to file one if they want to collect payments, and particular immigrants and their families are not eligible (including several families with children who are American citizens).
- Large investments across a broad spectrum of current programs can assist in responding to the current COVID 19 pandemic. This includes new critical investments in programs to help individuals going through homelessness (including several others) and to prevent people from losing their homes. It also includes student loan forbearance for 6 months and interest rate deferment.
Paid Sick Leave
The House recently passed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, which requires few of the employers and companies to provide working staff (full-time) with ten days (excluding weekends) of paid leave if they fall sick by contracting the virus.
The provision runs out at the end of 2020.
Furthermore, it also requires some firms to offer up to 3 months of paid medical and family leave for individuals who have no choice but to quarantine owing to the virus or take care of family members or kids because of the COVID-19 outbreak.
The U.S. Department of Labor recently announced that individual states could provide unemployment insurance and benefits in temporary unemployment situations associated with the COVID 19 pandemic.
Moreover, individuals who are self-isolating and cannot go to work can also obtain benefits, along with people who quit a job to take care of members infected by the virus.
However, whether you are eligible for these unemployment benefits will still differ by state (more on this later). You can find out your eligibility by searching your state government’s site for eligibility details, or you can place a call to the Department of Labor of your state.
Furthermore, since President Donald Trump recently declared a national emergency, people who lose work owing to the virus might also be eligible for the Disaster Unemployment Assistance.
The president’s administration also recently passed the CARES act to combat the repercussions of the coronavirus.
Common Unemployment Benefit Programs
Apart from the CARES Act, American citizens have access to several other unemployment benefit programs such as, but not limited to, the Families First Act, EB (Extended Benefit) program, and UC (Unemployment Compensation). In most states, compensation for unemployment gives up to 26 weeks of benefits for individuals who fulfill eligibility requirements.
Some of the states provide less than 26 weeks, whereas others provide more. For example, Arkansas, Idaho, Kansas, North Carolina, Missouri, Alabama, South Carolina, Florida, and Georgia provide less than 26 weeks of unemployment benefits (in fact, North Carolina only provides 12 weeks!) while the state of Montana offers up to 28 weeks.
Recently, the U.S. Department of Labor broadened its flexibility with unemployment benefits and insurance guidelines. There happen to be three important situations under which states can alter the flexibility of their program to help those folks impacted by the coronavirus outbreak:
- A person is self-isolating with the expectation of going back to work after the quarantine ends.
- A firm or an employer stops operations temporarily owing to the coronavirus, preventing the working staff from coming to work.
- A person leaves their job because of a risk of infection or exposure, or to look after a family member who contracted the virus.
How to Determine If You’re Eligible for Unemployment Benefits
The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act is providing unemployment benefits to a very broad range of individuals who were not eligible before (before the COVID-19 outbreak). These people include gig economy workers, such as drivers for Lyft or Uber, independent contractors, and freelancers.
Furthermore, part-time workers who lost their employment owing to the COVID 19 outbreak will also be covered, and so will individuals who stopped working to home school their kids or take care of an unwell family member.
Hence, if you fall into any of these categories, you are very much eligible for unemployment benefits.
In fact, if the coronavirus is accountable for your furlough, layoff, considerable reduction of your hours, or is keeping you from seeking employment since not many employers/firms are currently hiring, you have a very strong chance of being eligible and acquiring unemployment benefits. It is totally worth applying, even if you are uncertain as to whether you will be covered or not.
However, it is important to make note that states have particular eligibility conditions and requirements as well. For instance, Florida and Texas need unemployment benefits recipients to be looking for work actively while they gather their payments.
Similarly, Pennsylvania requires recipients to sign up for employment search services and instructs that they not turn down work without valid cause when it is offered.
In addition, you also have to fulfill a particular job and wage duration benchmarks; essentially, you have to provide proof that you were working prior to becoming unemployed. These requirements differ by state, but typically require that you work for successive quarters and getting a paycheck for a particular period of time during these quarters.
On the other hand, individuals who are working from the vicinity of their House but still obtaining a full wage (without any deduction) are not eligible for unemployment benefits.
Moreover, immigrants who have not been documented are not eligible, and neither are fresh candidates in the workforce, such as new university graduates. This is because they do not have a sufficiently long work history of filing an application for unemployment benefits.
You can also try researching your state’s DOL (Department of Labor) website to learn more about eligibility requirements.
Tips for Unemployed
It is important that you prepare yourself as best as possible in a financial sense for an upcoming period. While everyone's circumstances will be different, there are a few key tenets that unemployed should adhere to in nearly all situations:
Obtain Bill Relief
Many of the primary utilities all over the nation are providing payment relief to people affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as unemployed individuals who lost their jobs owing to the crisis. If you are unemployed, it serves your best interests to reach out to your local provider and inform them of your particular situation.
Organizations such as Dominion, PG&E, DTE Energy, and Duke Energy are all suspending disconnections and providing relief during this time period. Some companies are also providing flexible payment plans to their customers.
In addition, other companies like internet and cable provider Comcast, are waiving off late fees for consumers who contact them to say that they are not able to foot their bills on time right now owing to their current circumstances.
Just do not make the assumption that the organization is aware of the fact that you are experiencing trouble. Reach out to them and be prepared to provide relevant documentation if required.
Cut Back Your Spending and Budgeting
This might appear to be very obvious, but you might have to cut back your spending while you are unemployed, to make sure you can pay all your bills and not be dependent on anyone else.
Individuals who lose employment during the COVID 19 pandemic and obtain the additional boost of unemployment benefits and insurance ought to be limiting its use like they would ration food items if abandoned on a deserted island!
Furthermore, budgeting can be a very efficient way to save yourself a lot of money if you are unemployed due to coronavirus.
By simply managing fixed, discretionary, and variable expenditures, you can make sure that you have considerable savings set aside for things such as unexpected emergencies, retirement, student loans, mortgages, rent, and other expenses.
Begin to Digitally Network Right Now
Once organizations resume hiring after controlling the COVID-19 pandemic, they are very much likely to receive a plethora of job applications from candidates who are desperate to seek employment. Hence, needless to say, there will be cutthroat competition for positions. This means networking is extremely crucial if you want to stay ahead of the curve.
Therefore, if you are currently unemployed, make use of this time to digitally connect with your colleagues and friends, present and past, to inform them of your situation, your accomplishments and your set of skills.