Can I claim unemployment benefits due to COVID-19 shutdowns?

From small businesses to large corporations, many students and employees have suffered a loss of work or reduced hours due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

Such a dramatic loss of income can affect your ability to pay for everything from utility bills to rent. While some companies are suspending payments for the next few months, other expenses will continue no matter what happens. 

If you find yourself in a situation where your income has been reduced, you should consider filing for unemployment benefits. Over the past few weeks, some states have seen as much as a 150% increase in unemployment insurance applications. 

Not all states treat reduced hours the same, but the first step towards generating some additional income at this time is to look into your state’s benefits and what is available to you. 

If you’ve lost your job due to COVID-19

If you are a W-2 employee that was laid off from your job due to coronavirus closures, you should go to the department of labor unemployment website for your state and immediately file for unemployment benefits.

Some states may have a specific page set up for COVID-19, where you can read about relief packages and other benefits as they become available. 

Be sure to read about the requirements, financial maximum, and length of benefits so that you’re aware of what you will be receiving should you be approved.

If your hours were reduced due to COVID-19

Some states allow you to apply for unemployment benefits if your hours have been significantly reduced. 

In these cases, you can apply for benefits that will help make up the difference between your lost hours and your current workload. 

Keep in mind, like with all unemployment benefits, it hardly ever amounts to the income you were making before. But it will provide a bit of relief to those who need it. 

Freelance workers and COVID-19

Freelance workers, unfortunately, do not have access to unemployment benefits like W-2 workers. However, the government is working on a stimulus package that might help.

Additionally, check with the Disaster Unemployment Assistance organization, who can sometimes help freelancers gain access to much-needed help. 

Gig economy workers and COVID-19

As freelancers, there are no unemployment benefits for workers in the gig economy (such as Postmates, Uber, or Lyft drivers). That means they lack access to the ability to stop working and still take care of their expenses during times like these.

If you are a gig worker, continue to track the results of the stimulus package to see if there are any benefits coming your way. Otherwise, reach out to non-profits or other organizations designed to help gig workers. (Stimulus package information is changing day to day until confirmed by the government. Keep checking your local news outlets.)

We are in a state of constant flux, where things are changing from day-to-day. If you are without work or working on limited hours, it’s essential to keep up-to-date on government benefits that might be coming your way.

While these are uncertain times, there’s a lot of effort being put into helping people who need it most.

We will be continuing to update this post as things develop. Keep checking back.