Non-RRB members: FAQ On Unemployment Insurance Benefits Under COVID-19 Relief & One-Time Direct Payments

Published: March 30, 2020

Last updated on April 2nd, 2020

Topics Covered:

 

I. ONE-TIME, DIRECT PAYMENT TO INDIVIDUALS AND FAMILIES

II. EMERGENCY UI BENEFITS UNDER CARES ACT

III.  THE APPLICATION PROCESS FOR UI BENEFITS

  1. ELIGIBILITY FOR UI BENEFITS
  2. AMOUNT OF INCREASED UI BENEFITS UNDER THE CARES ACT
  3. RELATIONSHIP TO EMERGENCY PAID SICK OR FAMILY LEAVE

VII.    NO WAITING PERIOD

VIII.   SEEKING WORK DURING STATE OF EMERGENCY

  1. FILING FRAUDULENT CLAIMS

ONE-TIME, DIRECT PAYMENTS                                              

 

  1. Does the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) provide a direct, one-time payment to individual and families?

Yes, the CARES Act provides direct, one-time payment to individuals and families. The amounts of those payments are:

  • $1,200 for an individual with an adjusted gross income of up to $75,000 based on 2019 income tax returns (if filed) or 2018 returns
  • $2,400 for a married couple filing jointly with adjusted gross income of $150,000
  • $500 to parents for each child under age 17
  1. Am I entitled to the direct, one-time payment if my income or the income of my spouse exceeds the thresholds of $75,000 or $150,000 (combined)?

 The answer depends on the amount of your income. For persons or couples who earn more than the amounts listed above ($75,000 or $150,000), there is a $5.00 reduction for each $100 that a taxpayer’s income exceed those amounts. The amount of the one-time, direct payment is completely phased out for single filers with incomes exceeding $99,000, $146,500 for “head of household” filers with one child, and $198,000 for joint filers with no children.

 

  1. What is a “head of household”?

 “Head of household” is a term used by the IRS for filing purposes. If you filed your most recent tax form as “head of household,” you are a head of household for purposes of the phase out described in FAQ 2. “Head of household” includes unmarried persons and may include married persons living apart even if the couple is not divorced or legally separated.

For more information, see Publication 501 (2019), Dependents, Standard Deduction, and Filing Information.  https://www.irs.gov/publications/p501#en_US_2019_publink1000220775

 

  1. Am I entitled to the direct, one-time payment if I remain employed and have suffered no loss of income?

Yes. Employed individuals are entitled to the direct, one-time payment if they meet the income guidelines discussed in FAQs 1 and 2.

 

  1. Do I need to apply for the direct, one-time payment?

No. The U.S. Treasury will send the payment to the address listed on your tax return. If you received your tax refund (if applicable) by direct deposit, the payment will be sent to your direct deposit account.

 

EMERGENCY UI BENEFITS UNDER CARES ACT

  1. Does the CARES Act increase UI benefits?

Yes, under the CARES Act, the federal government provides UI benefits in the amount of $600 per week to eligible persons until July 31, 2020. These benefits are in addition to the UI benefits that a worker may receive from the state. The CARES Act also extends the number of weeks that workers may be entitled to receive state benefits.

 

 III. THE APPLICATION PROCESS FOR UI BENEFITS

  •  7. How do I apply for UI benefits in my state?

Check the website of your state unemployment office since instructions vary by state. You should plan to file on-line since offices are closed to the public until further notice.  Use the following to locate the website for your state.

 

https://www.careeronestop.org/LocalHelp/UnemploymentBenefits/find-unemployment-benefits.aspx

  1. Can I apply for UI benefits by telephone?

The websites of many state unemployment offices warn that you will have an unusually long wait if you call and may have difficulty getting through to their personnel. Filing on-line is your best option.

 

  1. How long will it take for the unemployment office to process my claim?

Since more than 3.3 million workers who have recently filed for UI benefits, there may be delays in the processing of your claim. The federal government has provided states with funding to hire additional staff to process claims. Be persistent in filing your claim.

 

  1. What information will I need to provide to the unemployment office on my application form?

The website of the unemployment office in your state lists the information that you need to file a claim, such as your social security number, work history (including the names and addresses of your employer(s), and dates of employment), etc.

 

  1. Is there any information that I can provide on my application that can speed up the processing of my application?

Check the website of your state’s unemployment office. The Connecticut Department of Labor, for example, advises that “For faster processing of your claim, please have your employer’s registration number and a return to work date readily available when you file your claim online.”

http://www.ctdol.state.ct.us/DOLCOVIDFAQ.PDF

 

 

  1. Can I receive my benefits by direct deposit into my bank account?

Some websites state that you should include your bank’s routing number and your account number if you want to receive your benefit payments via direct deposit.

Examples: https://dol.georgia.gov/blog/new-information-filing-unemployment-partial-claims-and-reemployment-services; https://www.in.gov/dwd/files/Indiana_Unemployment_FAQ.pdf

 

  1. If I am already receiving UI benefits from my state, what do I need to do to apply for the $600 increase provided by the CARES Act?

Check your website of your state unemployment office. The answer may that you are not required to do anything.  The New York State Department of Labor’s website states, for example, “If you are currently receiving benefits, there is nothing you need to do as your benefits will be updated automatically.”

https://labor.ny.gov/unemploymentassistance.shtm

 

ELIGIBILITY FOR UI BENEFITS

 Who is eligible for increased UI benefits?

All workers who are normally eligible for regular UI benefits in their state are automatically eligible for increased federal benefits. The CARES Act also provides additional reasons for coverage that are related to COVID-19. See FAQ 17.

 

  1. Am I covered if I would not normally be eligible for UI benefits under state law?

Yes, other eligible persons under the CARES Act include: part-time workers, workers who have used up their UI benefits, workers with no work history to report (based on most recent tax return), and self-employed individuals. These individuals may receive benefits if they are unemployed or unavailable to work because of COVID-19 but otherwise would be available for work. Workers in these categories are entitled fewer weeks of benefits than workers who are normally eligible for regular benefits. See FAQ  22.

 

  1. Am I covered if I continue to be employed but am assigned a reduced number of hours?

Yes, you are eligible for a partial amount of UI benefits.

 

  1. Which types of COVID-19 reasons for being unable to work make you eligible to UI benefits?

You are covered if you:

  • have been diagnosed with COVID-19 or are experiencing symptoms and seeking a medical diagnosis
  • have a household member who has been diagnosed with COVID-19
  • are providing care for a family member or household member who has been diagnosed with COVID-19
  • are the primary caregiver for a child or other person in the household who is unable to attend school or another facility as a direct result of COVID-19
  • are unable to reach the place of employment because of a quarantine imposed as a direct result of COVID-19
  • are unable to work because a health care provider has advised you to self-quarantine due to COVID-19 concerns
  • were scheduled to commence employment and do not have a job or are unable to reach the job as a direct result of COVID-19
  • have become the breadwinner or major support for a household because the head of household has died as a direct result of COVID-19
  • have to quit your job as a direct result of COVID-19 or
  • are employed in a place of employment that is closed as a direct result of COVID-19.

 

  1. Am I eligible for UI benefits if I was laid off before the federal government declared the COVID-19 emergency on January 27, 2020?

 Yes, you are still entitled to UI benefits as of that date.

 

  1. Am I eligible for UI benefits if my unemployment was not caused by the COVID-19 but I am unable to find a job because of the sharp increase in unemployment overall?

 Yes, you are still entitled to UI benefits.

 

  •  20. Am I eligible to receive UI benefits while temporarily quarantined with the expectation of returning to work when the quarantine is over?

 Yes. Federal law does not require an employee to quit in order to receive UI benefits due to the impact of COVID-19.

 

  1. Am I eligible to receive UI benefits if I leave employment due to a risk of exposure or infection or to care for a family member?

 Yes

 

AMOUNTS OF INCREASED UI BENEFITS UNDER CARES ACT

 

  1. What are the increased UI benefits provided under CARES Act?

Eligible workers are entitled to $600 per week for up to four months in UI benefits under CARES Act, plus the amount to which they are entitled to under state law. Entitlement to an additional $600 per week ends on July 31, 2020. The CARES Act also extends the number of weeks that a worker is entitled to receive state benefits by 13 weeks (not exceed 52 weeks). However, workers who would not normally be entitled coverage under state law receive a maximum of 39 weeks of coverage. See FAQ 15 for a list of those workers.

 

  1. What UI benefits am I entitled to under state law?

You can learn about the amount UI benefits to which you are entitled under state law unemployment if you click on the link provided in FAQ  7 for your state. For example, California’s Employment Development Department provides a UI benefit calculator that provides you with an estimate of your weekly benefit amount.  https://edd.ca.gov/Unemployment/UI-Calculator.htm

The amount of UI benefits provided by state law depends on your earnings. The maximum amount allowed varies by state.

 

  1. What UI benefits am I entitled to if I remain employed, but my hours are reduced?

The amount of your state benefits will be reduced based on the formula for calculating benefits in your state.

 

  1. How will my benefits be calculated if I have no work history on my most recent tax return?

If you have no income on your most recent tax return and no wage history that can be used to calculate a weekly benefit amount, you will receive a “minimum flat benefit” based on the average weekly benefit paid in the state, plus an extra $600 per week through July 31, 2020.

 

 RELATIONSHIP TO PAID SICK OR FAMILY LEAVE

  

  1. Can I collect UI benefits and paid family or sick leave for the same time period?

No, if you are eligible for both UI benefits and paid family or sick leave, you may be eligible to collect both but not for the same time period. For example, if your employer closes while you are on paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave, your employer must pay for any paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave you used before the employer closed. As of the date your employer closes your worksite, you are no longer entitled to paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave, but you may be eligible for UI benefits.  See the U.S. Department of Labor’s “Families First Coronavirus Response Act: Questions and Answers,” which addresses eligibility for paid sick leave and expanded family and medical leave.

https://www.dol.gov/agencies/whd/pandemic/ffcra-questions

 

 

 VII.  NO WAITING PERIOD

 

  1. Is there a waiting period between date of unemployment and eligibility for extended UI benefits?

No. All waiting periods are eliminated in all states under the CARES Act.

 

VIII. SEEKING WORK DURING STATE OF EMERGENCY

 

  1. Does the CARES Act require you to “actively” seek work to remain eligible for benefits?

Yes. However, the CARES Act allows the states to provide “flexibility” in meeting this requirement for individuals who are unable to search for work because of COVID–19, including because of illness, quarantine, or movement restriction. You should follow the instructions provided on the website of your state’s unemployment office to learn what is expected of you to maintain eligibility. If your state requires you to register with employment services (Career Services), you should do so.

 

  1. If I lose my job for reasons related to COVID-19, am I required to register with the state’s employment services to remain eligible for UI benefits during the state of emergency?

 The answer may vary by state. Check the website of your state’s unemployment office. Registration with employment services (Career Link) may not be required during the state of emergency. Please be aware that this requirement may change once the state of emergency has ended. Here are two examples of guidance provided on websites of state unemployment offices:

Pennsylvania’s Website

Work Search and Work Registration requirements are temporarily waived for all UC claimants.  Claimants are not required to prove they have applied or searched for a new job to maintain their UC benefits.  Claimants are also not required to register with www.PACareerLink.pa.gov.

https://www.uc.pa.gov/Pages/covid19.aspx

Illinois’ Website

30. What if I’m temporarily laid off because the place where I work is temporarily closed because of the COVID-19 virus?

An individual temporarily laid off in this situation could qualify for benefits as long as he or she was able and available for and actively seeking work. Under emergency rules IDES recently adopted, the individual would not have to register with the employment service. He or she would be considered to be actively seeking work as long as the individual was prepared to return to his or her job as soon the employer reopened.

https://www2.illinois.gov/ides/Pages/COVID-19-and-Unemployment-Benefits.aspx

 

  1. Have any states waived the requirement that workers seek work to remain eligible for UI benefits if they are not working for reasons related to COVID-19?

 Yes.  Many states have “waived” the requirement that recipients look for work.

Example: http://www.ctdol.state.ct.us/DOLCOVIDFAQ.PDF

 

  1. Am I required to seek work if I was unemployed at the time the state of emergency was declared?

Check the website of your state’s unemployment office. Here is an example from the Massachusetts Department of Labor that requires that workers make on-line efforts, as they “are able.”

Massachusetts’ Website

I was already collecting UI due to a reason unrelated to COVID-19. What do I do about work search?

You should continue to do an online work search as you are able. Many things that can be done remotely count as work search activities. For example, continue to monitor job boards and post resumes. You only need accept suitable work, however. If you are quarantined, are self-quarantining due to a reasonable fear of exposure, or you must care for a family member who is sick, or a child who is at home, you do not need to accept work until those conditions resolve.

https://www.mass.gov/info-details/employee-unemployment-faq-covid-19

 

  1. Do any states require recipients of UI benefits to undertake reemployment activities?

Check the website of your state’s unemployment office. Here is an example of a state that informs workers that “may be required” to engage in on-line reemployment activities.

 

Maryland’s Website

The Department of Labor and Industry “might not require claimants to search for jobs, but may instead require claimants to perform other reemployment activities, such as creating a resume, completing online classes and training courses, or completing other approved online tasks that prepare the claimant to become reemployed in a future, stabilized labor market.” The website further states: “Claimants are not required to search for work if their employer has temporarily laid off the claimant and has provided a return to work date that is less than 10 weeks in the future.”

https://www.dllr.state.md.us/employment/uicovidfaqs.shtml

 

FILING FRAUDULENT CLAIMS

 33. What is the penalty for intentionally filing a false claim for UI benefits?

The consequences of filing a fraudulent claim may include ineligibility for UI benefits in the future, repayment the amounts wrongfully received, and criminal charges.