Step by Step Guide: How to Apply for Unemployment
With over 10 million Americans filing for unemployment in the month of March alone, and more likely to follow as states across the nation issue “shelter at home” orders, many adults are finding themselves filing for unemployment benefits for the first time in their lives, and struggling to figure out if they qualify and how to apply. The good news is, more workers than ever are eligible, due to the impact of the coronavirus.
The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, which supplies $2 trillion in stimulus funds, includes provisions for bolstering unemployment benefits. Typically, unemployment insurance is administered at the state level and is only available in a narrow set of circumstances (for employees suffering cut hours or layoffs who are unable to find work, despite ongoing efforts).
Under the CARES ACT, part-time employees are now eligible to apply for unemployment, as are freelance, contract, and gig workers who are self-employed. You can apply for unemployment if the coronavirus has led to:
• Reduced hours or layoff at your current job
• Inability to start a new job for which you were hired
• Closure of your workplace
• The need to quit your job
• School or care facility closures that left you in the role of caregiver
• Direct impact, such as coronavirus symptoms, caring for someone diagnosed with COVID-19, and/or quarantine
The question, of course, is how can eligible workers apply for unemployment benefits?
Preparing to Apply
You will be required to submit several key pieces of information in order to prove eligibility and receive approval for unemployment benefits. The process may vary by state, but you can typically expect to be asked to provide the following:
• Your full name and Social Security Number
• Current contact information (phone number and mailing address)
• Information about your employment over the past 12-18 months, including names and contact information for employers, as well as dates of employment and gross earnings
• Information about how and why you lost your job
• Information regarding your ongoing search for gainful employment
Often, you will be asked for documents related to the information you are providing, and you may be asked for identification such as a state ID or driver’s license. Having all of your documentation in order will only help to facilitate the filing process.
Understanding Your State’s Application Process
Many states offer an online application for Unemployment Insurance (UI) benefits. If this is the case, you simply have to visit your state’s UI website to find information about filling out your application and uploading documents. In some cases, you may have to apply over the phone or in person at your local UI office. To learn more about how to file for UI benefits in your state, start here.
It’s important to start the filing process as soon as possible so that you can expedite benefits. If eligible, you can typically expect to receive benefits within 2-3 weeks, but due to the high volume of new unemployment applications right now, it could be longer.