How does the CARES Act affect unemployment insurance benefits?
The CARES Act notably offers unemployment insurance benefits to previously ineligible groups, such as gig workers and freelancers. It also extends new unemployment insurance claims and existing state benefits by 13 weeks, and adds an extra $600 a week to benefits, for up to four months.
How do I apply for unemployment?
You will need to apply via your state’s Department of Labor. This can typically be done via an online application. According to the recently passed government stimulus package, freelancers and gig workers are now eligible for unemployment insurance benefits. While the rules are different in each state, this typically means that freelancers and other gig workers will have to verify their wages to their state’s Department of Labor. This can be done with 1099s, tip ledgers, etc. However, if you make tips be sure your employer includes your tip amount in your reported income or tips won’t be counted towards your eligibility for unemployment benefits. If you are a freelancer who has been denied eligibility, or someone previously ineligible for any other reason, you may apply for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance benefits under the Disaster Unemployment Assistance program. That information should be available on your state’s Department of Labor website, where you will have to verify the assistance is available to you.
How much money will I get thanks to unemployment insurance benefits?
Amounts will vary state to state. On average, unemployment insurance benefits replace about 40-45% of an applicant’s income. In New York, the weekly minimum you can receive is $104, and the maximum is $504. This will increase with the additional $600 provided by the CARES Act. The amount you receive is based on your reported wages (and your state’s rules), but everyone who is approved for either state unemployment insurance benefits or Pandemic Unemployment Assistance will receive the state-determined benefit amount plus an additional $600.
Have unemployment benefits been extended? For how long?
Unemployment insurance benefits typically last for 26 weeks. But because we are in a state of crisis, unemployment benefits have been extended for 13 weeks—meaning that those receiving benefits are eligible for payments up to 39 Weeks.
I am already receiving unemployment insurance benefits. What do I do now?
Nothing. There’s no need to worry or change anything if you were already approved for unemployment benefits prior to the COVID-19 crisis. You can just continue to certify your information weekly and you will receive the additional $600 for up to four months as well as the 39 weeks of coverage, if needed.
What If I’m a recent graduate or someone who hasn’t been employed full time but cannot find a job because of the COVID-19 pandemic?
You are likely not eligible for unemployment, however you should still apply for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance. If you have any prior employment at all, it is worth it to give applying a shot.
What if I am not usually able to get unemployment benefits or have exhausted my benefits?
Now’s the time to apply (or re-apply). If you have previously been denied or ineligible due to self-employment or gig-work, apply. If you were previously receiving unemployment benefits, and those benefits became exhausted sometime after July 1, 2019, re-apply. It could turn out you’re eligible now—both because unemployment insurance benefits have been extended to include freelancers, and because the length of time one is eligible to receive benefits have been extended by 13 weeks.