As of April 18, 2020, over 22 million Americans have filed for unemployment benefits given governments have forced economies to shutdown to combat the coronavirus.
If unemployment claims average 5 million a week, there will be over 50 million Americans unemployed by the middle of June 2020. The coronavirus is making more Americans unemployed in the history of our country.
At some point, Americans will have to ask themselves to choose the economy or maybe their lives so they can go back to work. Thankfully, under the CARES Act, the government is providing an additional $600/week in unemployment benefits during this trying time.
Unemployment Benefits Insurance Basics
Unemployment insurance benefits are managed and distributed by individual states. Most states provide up to 26 weeks of unemployment benefits and then the federal government may kick in to provide more as we saw during the 2008 – 2009 global financial crisis. During that period, unemployment benefits extended up to a total of 99 weeks (73 more weeks provided by the federal government.
If you have been laid off or furloughed, you are eligible for unemployment benefits. However, if you have been FIRED, you probably are not eligible unless it's strictly a performance issue.
Although people use the words “laid off” and “fired” interchangeably, they mean different things. Getting laid off means losing your job through NO FAULT of your own. Perhaps the business shut down because it was unprofitable. Or maybe your business had to temporarily furlough you due to the government forcing the business down to combat the coronavirus. In such cases, you get to apply for unemployment benefits insurance.
Getting fired means you did something egregiously wrong, besides general poor performance at your job. For example, you can get fired for sexually harassing a colleague or stealing company secrets. In these cases, you are likely ineligible for unemployment benefits.
When you go and apply for unemployment benefits at your city's unemployment benefits department, you will have to fill out a form. Your old employer will get notified about your application. They will either approve or deny it. You can see how punching your boss in the face will likely lead to a denial.
Unemployment benefits are funded through state employment taxes, and the Federal Unemployment Tax Act. Know that your employer pays an unemployment benefits tax each month.
It usually takes about a week for you to hear back about benefits once you apply. During coronavirus time, it may take longer. If you are approved you'll usually have to go to your state's website every week or every other week to request new unemployment payments and report any earnings you might have had from part time employment. You also have to report whether you have been actively looking for a job and highlight all the places you've applied to under the honor system.
Expanded Coronavirus Unemployment Benefits
Thanks to the CARES Act, the federal government has provided expanded unemployment benefits during the coronavirus pandemic. In addition to every American who earns $75,000 or less getting $1,200 in a stimulus check, every unemployed American who files an unemployment benefit gets the following:
- An additional 13 weeks to the typical 26 weeks of unemployment that most states provide. This runs through 12/31/2020. The theoretical maximum is up to 10 months of unemployment benefits.
- An additional $600/week in benefits and payments through July 31st, 2020. You can receive this extra benefit until you’ve exhausted your state benefits.
- The inclusion of part-time, contract workers, and self-employed workers. This is awesome given 1099 workers were once excluded.
- Incentivizes states to waive the 1 week waiting period for unemployment benefits that most states have by reimbursing the states for 100% of the benefits for that week.
When Does The Extra $600/Week Kick In?
Getting an extra $600/week in unemployment benefits is huge. For example, in California, you used to get up to $450/week or $1,800 a month in unemployment benefits. Now you can get $2,400 more a month, or $4,200 a month total. Not bad! Surely, most people can survive off $4,200 a month in California.
The $600/week in unemployment benefits should kick in by late April 2020 at the latest. However, you can still collect your state’s normal unemployment benefits if you’re approved. Even if the $600/week doesn't kick in right away, you will eventually get it as long as you stay unemployed.
It's important to note that the $600 is also paid retroactively, starting on 4/5/20. So you will get the benefits from the date you signed up for unemployment on. It will only be paid and apply to those who are receiving unemployment benefits.
Obviously, there is going to be some key employment decisions you will have to make during this time period. If you are making less than $100,000 a year or $8,333 a month, do you really want to aggressively try and look for a job during a global pandemic when you can earn a healthy sum in unemployment benefits? Unlikely.
Instead, I would think most people will take their time, heal their minds and bodies from the daily grind, and wait until after the lockdowns are over to find better work.
All State Unemployment Benefits Contact Information
Below is a table that has the contact information and amount of maximum unemployment benefits per week for all states. What's amazing is that some states offer already very health sums of unemployment benefits. To then add on another $2,400/month thanks to the CARES Act is huge!
My home state of Hawaii, for example, offers $648/week in unemployment benefits. Now, the unemployed get $1,248/week maximum or $4,992/month per person. Given it is common for multi-generations to live under one roof, you could easily have two or three people get unemployment benefits insurance and easily sustain themselves.
|Alabama Department of Labor||334-242-8025||Website|
|Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development||907-269-4700||Website|
|Arizona Department of Economic Security||1-877-600-2722||Website|
|Arkansas Department of Workforce Services||501-682-2121||Website|
|California Employment Development Department||1-800-300-5616||Website|
|Colorado Department of Labor and Employment||303-318-9000||Website|
$649/wk max $749 with dependents
|Connecticut Department of Labor||860-263-6000||Website|
|Delaware Department of Labor||New Castle County: 302-761-6576 Other Areas: 1-800-794-3032||Website|
|District of Columbia|
|District of Columbia Department of Employment Services||202-724-7000||Website|
|Florida Department of Economic Opportunity||1-800-204-2418||Website|
|Georgia Department of Labor||1-877-709-8185||Website|
|Hawaii Department of Labor and Industrial Relations||Oahu: 808-586-8970 Hilo: 808-974-4086 Kona: 808-322-4822 Maui: 808-984-8400 Kauai: 808-274-3043||Website|
|Idaho Department of Labor||208-332-8942||Website|
$484/wk max ($667 with dependents)
|Illinois Department of Employment Security||1-800-244-5631||Website|
|Indiana Department of Workforce Development||1-800-891-6499||Website|
|Iowa Workforce Development||1-866-239-0843||Website|
|Kansas Department of Labor||1-800-292-6333||Website|
|Kentucky Career Center Office of Unemployment Insurance||502-564-2900||Website|
|Louisiana Workforce Commission||1-866-783-5567||Website|
|Maine Department of Labor||1-800-593-7660||Website|
|Maryland Department of Labor||410-949-0022||Website|
823/wk max $1,234 with dependents
|Massachusetts Department of Unemployment Assistance||617-626-6338||Website|
|Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity||1-866-500-0017||Website|
|Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development||Twin Cities Area: 651-296-3644 Greater Minnesota: 1-877-898-9090||Website|
|Mississippi Department of Employment Security||1-888-844-3577||Website|
|Missouri Department of Labor and Industrial Relations||1-800-320-2519||Website|
|Montana Department of Labor and Industry||406-444-2545||Website|
|Nebraska Department of Labor||1-855-995-8863||Website|
|Nevada Department of Employment Training and Rehabilitation||Northern Nevada: 775-684-0350 Southern Nevada: 702-486-0350 Rural Areas and Out of State Callers: 1-888-890-8211||Website|
|New Hampshire Department of Employment Security||1-800-852-3400||Website|
|New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development||North New Jersey: 201-601-4100 Central New Jersey: 732-761-2020 South New Jersey: 856-507-2340 Out-of-state claims: 1-888-795-6672||Website|
|New Mexico Department of Workforce Solutions||1-877-664-6984||Website|
|New York Department of Labor||1-888-209-8124||Website|
|North Carolina Department of Commerce||1-888-737-0259||Website|
|North Dakota Job Service||701-328-4995||Website|
$480/wk max $647 with dependents
|Ohio Department of Job and Family Services||1-877-644-6562||Website|
|Oklahoma Employment Security Commission||1-800-555-1554||Website|
|Oregon Employment Department||1-877-345-3484||Website|
$572/wk max $580 with dependents.
|Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry||1-888-313-7284||Website|
|Puerto Rico Department of Labor and Human Resources||787-625-7900||Website|
$586/wk max $867 with dependents.
|Rhode Island Department of Labor and Training||401-243-9100||Website|
|South Carolina Department of Employment and Workforce||1-866-831-1724||Website|
|South Dakota Department of Labor and Regulation||605-626-3179||Website|
|Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development||1-877-813-0950||Website|
|Texas Workforce Commission||1-800-939-6631||Website|
|U.S. Virgin Islands|
|U.S. Virgin Islands Department of Labor||340-773-1994||Website|
|Utah Department of Workforce Services||Salt Lake and South Davis Counties: 801-526-4400 Weber and North Davis Counties: 801-612-0877 Utah County: 801-375-4067 Other Counties and Out of State: 1-888-848-0688||Website|
|Vermont Department of Labor||1-888-807-7072||Website|
|Virginia Employment Commission||1-866-832-2363||Website|
|Washington Employment Security Department||1-800-318-6022||Website|
|Workforce West Virginia||1-800-379-1032||Website|
|Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development||1-844-910-3661||Website|
|Wyoming Department of Workforce Services||307-473-3789||Website|
Information You Need To Apply For Unemployment Benefits
You don't need to go to your city or state's unemployment office to file. You just need to go online, thank goodness. Otherwise, the lines would be 10X longer than the worst DMV line you've ever been to.
- Social Security Number.
- Name, birth date, address, contact information, email.
- U.S. citizen or not
- If you are disabled or a military veteran.
- Direct deposit information, including routing number and account number.
- Information about your previous employer, when you started and were laid off
- Your pay information
- Why you lost your job
The information is very straightforward. The unemployment department wants to basically know you are legitimate person who is unemployed for legitimate reasons. As you can guess, there is a lot of fraud whenever free money is involved.
Within a week, you will get an e-mail notifying you whether you've been approved or denied. Again, your old employer will be notified and will either confirm or deny. If you are denied, you are always free to contest.
Process Once You Are Approved
Once you're approved for unemployment benefits you need to be organized and diligent about submitting your claims every week or every two weeks, depending on your state's demands.
In California, you have to submit a claim every two weeks to get a maximum of $900 in unemployment benefits plus the extra $1,200 from the CARES Act.
On the claim, you will have to list out all the companies you applied to, the roles, and the date. Therefore, make sure you are actually applying for new work and keeping a record.
In the past, your local unemployment office will call you into their office to check up on you and make you sit through a class to help you find new work. However, during the coronavirus pandemic, it is likely they will not because they are very overwhelmed.
I don't think any unemployment claims personnel expects you to actively try and find work in person during the lockdown period. Further, many companies have hiring freezes. I wouldn't worry about “failing” to find work. Instead, I would just continue to file claims and do your best until this damn lockdown is over.
Do know that all unemployment benefits are taxable, however, stimulus checks are not.
Strategic Unemployment Recommendation
I want to leave you guys with one final thought. If you are still employed, consider trying to engineer your layoff if you wanted to leave your job anyway. Not only is now a great time because unemployment benefits are at all-time highs, now is also a great time because you are helping your boss SAVE someone who might really need a job.
If you successfully engineer your layoff, like I did in 2012, you not only get unemployment benefits, you get a discretionary severance check and maybe even any deferred cash and stock compensation.
I wrote the book, How To Engineer Your Layoff: Make A Small Fortune By Saying Goodbye, in 2012, and have since updated it for 2020 and beyond. Receiving a severance was my #1 catalyst to leave my investment banking job and have the courage to retire early and focus on Financial Samurai. The severance paid for 5-6 years of regular living expenses as I got to travel, spend more time with my wife, write, and finally succeed in having children.