The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, passed by the federal government and signed into law on March 30, authorizes expanded unemployment benefits for Americans. Due to the major economic crisis triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic, there are several distinctions from the traditional programs that states use to support employees who have been dismissed.
If you lost your job, have been furloughed or are experiencing a reduction in hours due to the coronavirus, there are some things you should know about the new law, including:
Benefits for victims of temporary layoffs and self-employed individuals — Under the CARES Act, payments are available for employees who are temporarily laid off due to coronavirus measures as well as self-employed individuals who have lost income. Traditionally, to receive unemployment benefits, you had to lose your job, but here you might be able to collect payment if you have been unable to report to your workplace because of a coronavirus quarantine or because you need to care for an afflicted family member.
Eligibility for independent contractors — Independent contractors should know that the CARES Act extends unemployment benefits to them as well. Gig workers and others who are hired on a project-by-project basis are encouraged to apply, even if they tried in the past and did not receive unemployment benefits.
Partial unemployment benefits may be awarded — Many states allow part-time workers to apply for unemployment benefits. Typically, these payments are based on the percentage someone works of the standard 40-hour week. Under the CARES Act, it may be easier to receive such benefits.
Additional pay for unemployment recipients — In addition to expanding eligibility, the CARES Act increases the weekly benefit amount that the states currently provide by $600. An end date for this additional payment was included in the initial bill, so you should check with your state or an attorney to see if it still applies.
Extended benefits — Most states offer around 26 weeks of unemployment benefits. That amount may be more or less depending on the jurisdiction. The CARES Act provides an additional 13 weeks of benefits for people who are still unemployed after their state benefit period runs out.
Unemployment benefits vary by state. Due to an overwhelming increase in applicants, many states’ systems have been overburdened. This may lead to unwarranted denials of benefits for eligible individuals, as well as other problems. An experienced and knowledgeable employment attorney can help you navigate the unemployment benefit application process.