COVID-19: Unemployment Benefits

5/14/2020

Man sits against wall looking upwards

Unemployment Insurance Overview

The Federal-State Unemployment Insurance Program provides temporary unemployment benefits to eligible unemployed workers. Requirements for eligibility and program administration vary across state lines. Each program administers its unemployment insurance program within guidelines determined by federal law. Unemployment insurance laws enacted by a state also determine how to calculate eligible recipient benefits, the duration of the coverage and taxes owed for the program. The U.S. Department of Labor is able to make changes to guidelines for state governments on how to administer their benefits. They most often make these changes during times of economic difficulty or a federal state of emergency. 

State Unemployment Solvency Trust Fund

Each state's unemployment fund is managed by the federal government and used by the state to pay out unemployment claims. Every year the Department of Labor releases a report on the solvency of the state's trust fund. The report can be found here

Expanding Administrative Capacity

Over the past two weeks, state workforce agencies have seen an unprecedented increase in weekly claims filed for unemployment insurance. Since March 15, 36.5 million people have filed for unemployment across the country. This record-breaking volume of applications has caused stress on state unemployment offices and administrations.

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act allows state workforce agencies maximum flexibility in hiring staff to manage increased applications and case workload.

“This provision gives states maximum flexibility to recruit and select staff through December 31, 2020, to quickly process applications and claims. Note that the flexibility only applies for responding to workload and increased demand resulting from the spread of COVID-19.”

Many states are also employing extra measures to manage the influx of applicants. We are seeing states implement multiple strategies to expand their administrative capacity.  

Strategies include: 

  1. Increasing staffing.
  2. Staggering or scheduling when people can apply.
  3. Contracting with call centers.
  4. Utilizing staff from other programs or departments.

First Round of Federal Guidance

On March 12, the Department of Labor announced expanded flexibility and new guidance for states on how to administer unemployment benefits for workers affected by COVID-19. The new guidelines for states include but are not limited to:

  1. An employee can be eligible if an employer temporarily ceases operations due to COVID-19, preventing employees from coming to work.
  2. Employees can be eligible if they are quarantined with the expectation of returning to work after the quarantine is over.
  3. Employees can also be eligible if they leave employment due to a risk of exposure or infection or to care for a family member.
  4. States are encouraged to waive the weeklong waiting period, which is not required by federal law.
  5. In addition, federal law does not require an employee to quit to receive benefits due to the impact of COVID-19.
  6. Employees who are currently receiving paid sick leave or family leave are, however, considered employed and therefore not eligible.

Second Round of Federal Guidance

On April 2, the Department of Labor released a second set of guidelines for states relating to the implementation of new unemployment insurance programs provided in the CARES Act. These new provisions include, among other things, the extension and expansion of unemployment benefits during the pandemic.

Programs include:

  • Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) (Section 2102):
    • This program provides up to 39 weeks of benefits and is available starting with weeks of unemployment beginning on or after Jan. 27, 2020 and ending on or before Dec. 31, 2020. This program covers individuals who are self-employed, seeking part-time employment, or whom otherwise would not qualify for regular UC or EB under state or federal law or Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) under section 2107. Coverage also includes individuals who have exhausted all rights to regular UC or EB under state or federal law, or PEUC.
  • Emergency unemployment relief for governmental entities and nonprofit organizations (Section 2103).
    • The department is authorized to issue guidance to allow states to interpret their state UC laws in a manner that would provide for maximum flexibility to reimbursing employers as it relates to timely payments in lieu of contributions and assessment of penalties and interest.
  • Emergency increase in unemployment compensation benefits, called Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) (Section 2104).
    • This program provides an additional $600 per week to individuals who are collecting regular UC (including Unemployment Compensation for Federal Employees (UCFE) and Unemployment Compensation for Ex-Servicemembers (UCX)), PEUC, PUA, EB, STC, Trade Readjustment Allowances (TRA), Disaster Unemployment Assistance (DUA), and payments under the Self Employment Assistance (SEA) program. This is available for weeks of unemployment beginning after the date on which the state enters into an agreement with the department and ending with weeks of unemployment ending on or before July 31, 2020.
  • Temporary full federal funding of the first week of compensable regular unemployment for states with no waiting week (Section 2105).
    •  States that provide compensation to individuals for their first week of unemployment.
  • Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) (Section 2107).
    • This program provides up to 13 weeks of benefits and is available for weeks of unemployment beginning after the date on which the state enters into an agreement with the department and ending with weeks of unemployment ending on or before Dec, 31, 2020.
  • Temporary financing, agreements, and grants for Short-Time Compensation (STC) (Section 2108 through Section 2111).
    • STC, also known as Shared Work or Work Share, is a layoff aversion program where an employer reduces the hours for a group of workers to avoid layoffs and these workers receive a partial unemployment benefit payment.

Extended Benefits

Eligible laid-off workers can receive regular unemployment benefits for as long as 26 weeks in most states.

After exhausting those benefits, individuals in states with rising unemployment can qualify for an additional 13 weeks of benefits—or 20 weeks in some states through the Extended Benefits (EB) program.

CARES Act

On Friday, March 27, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act was passed. Part of the $2 trillion in spending in the act includes significant investment in state unemployment insurance programs. For a more detailed summary of everything included in the CARES Act, read our NCSL brief on the bill.

The CARES act affects unemployment insurance in the following ways:

  • $360 million for Department of Labor to invest in programs that provide training and supportive services for dislocated workers, seniors, migrant farmworkers and homeless veterans. Includes funding for implementing new paid leave and unemployment insurance benefits.
  • Expands unemployment insurance from three to four months, and provides temporary unemployment compensation of $600 per week, which is in addition to and the same time as regular state and federal UI benefits.
  • Part-time, self-employed and gig economy workers now have access to UI benefits.
  •  Allows employers to receive an advance tax credit from the Treasury instead of having to be reimbursed on the back end.
  • $260 billion investment into the unemployment insurance program.
  • Creates regulatory authority to implement the tax credit advances.

State Actions 

States have been implementing a variety of emergency rules for unemployed workers affected by COVID-19. Actions include waving the seven-day waiting period to receive benefits, allowing businesses to apply for workshare, and extending benefits to employees who are under quarantine. The following states have issued guidance on how to administer unemployment insurance benefits to workers affected by COVID-19.

Sources for state actions come from the National Employment Law ProjectNational Association of State Workforce Agencies, The National Governors Association, and the Department of Labor CareerOneStop. For more detailed information on individual state actions, we recommend you visit your State Department of Labor. 

State

Waiting Week 

Work Search Requirement 

Who is covered? 

FPUC Payment Start Date

PUA Payment Start Date  PEUC Payment Start Date

Short-Time Compensation  or Workshare 

Expanding Administrative Capacity 

Alabama 

Waiting week waived.

Work search requirements are waived provided the worker has “reasonable expectation" of continued employment with the current employer.
  • Quarantined people.
  • Those who have to stay home and provide dependent care. 
  • Those who lost their jobs due to its business shutting own operations.

4/08/20

4/13/20     04/20/20

 

 

Alaska 

Waiting week waived.

 

Work search may be waived depending on the circumstances. 

  • Quarantined people.
  • Those who have to stay home and provide dependent care. 
  • Those who lost their jobs due to its business shutting own operations. 
4/13/20 4/16/20 No information available

 

 

Arizona 

Waiting week waived.

 

Work search requirements have been waived.

  • Quarantined people.
  • Those who have to stay home and provide dependent care. 
  • Those who lost their jobs due to its business shutting own operations.
  • Furloughed and partially laid off workers.

 4/13/20

5/12/20 No information available Has a workshare program.  

 

Arkansas 

Waiting week waived.

 

Work search requirements have been waived for a period of thirty (30) days, or through the week ending April 18. 

  • Employees of a buisness that has had a reduciton in its workforce for a period of 10 weeks or less.

4/04/20 

Information not available No information available

Has a workshare program.  .

 

 

California 

Waiting week waived.

 

Work search requirements are waived.
  • Quarantined workers entitled to UI.
  • Case-by-case determination for workers who can’t work to care for children and other circumstances. 

4/12/20 

4/28/20 No information available Has a workshare program.  

 

Colorado 

 

 

  • Unemployed or reduced hours due to COVID-19.

 4/20/20

04/20/20 04/20/20

Has a workshare program.   

 

  • Applicants are only allowed to file on certain days based on the first letter of thier last name. 

Connecticut 

Waiting week waived.

 

Work search requirements have been waived. 

 

 4/27/20

04/30/20 No information available Has a workshare program.   

 

Delaware 

Waiting week waived. 

 

Work search requirements have been waived. 

  • Quarantined people.
  • Those who have coronavirus and cannot work.
  • Thoes who have been temporarily laid off. 

4/08/20 

May 04/19/20

 

 

D.C. 

 

Work search requirements are waived provided the worker has “reasonable expectation" of continued employment with the current employer.
  • Quarantined people.
  • Furloughed and partially laid off workers.

 04/22/20

04/24/20 No information available

 

 

Florida 

Waiting week waived.

 

Work search requirements have been waived. 

  • Quarantined people. 
  • Those who have to stay home and provide dependent care.
  • Those who lost their jobs due to its business shutting own operations.

 

4/16/20 

04/28/20 No information available

Has a workshare program.  

 

 

Georgia 

Waiting week waived.

 

Work search requirements have been waived. 
  • Quarantined people. 
  • Those who have to stay home and provide dependent care.
  • Those who lost their jobs due to its business shutting own operations.
  • Workers that are furloughed and plan to return to work when the business reopens.  

 4/04/20

04/22/20 No information available

 

 

Hawaii 

Waiting week waived.

 

 

 

 4/21/20

May No information available

 

 

Idaho 

Waiting week waived.

 

Work search requirements are waived provided the worker has “reasonable expectation" of continued employment with the current employer.
  • Workers that are quarantined and unable to work and plan to return to work at the end of thier quarantine. 

4/24/20 

May 04/30/20

 

 

Illinois 

 

 

  • Workers that are temporarily laid off.
  • Those who have to stay home and provide dependent care.

 04/07/20

No information available 04/20/20

Has a workshare program.   

 

  • Applicants are only allowed to file on certain days based on the first letter of thier last name. 

Indiana 

 

 

  • Quarantined people. 
  • Those who have to stay home and provide dependent care.
  • Workers that are furloughed and plan to return to work when the business reopens.

 04/17/20

05/04/20 No information available

 

 

Iowa 

Waiting week waived.

 

Work search requirements have been waived. 

  • Quarantined people.
  • Thoes requried by thier work to stay home without telework.  
  • Workers that were laid off either temporarily or otherwise.

 4/16/20

04/14/20 04/14/20

Has a workshare program.  

 

 

Kansas 

Waiting week waived.

 

Work search requirements are waived provided the worker has “reasonable expectation" of continued employment with the current employer. 

 

 4/23/20

No information available No information available Has a workshare program.  

 

Kentucky 

Waiting week waived.

 

Work search requirements have been waived. 

 

 4/10/20

3/25/20 No information available

 

 

Louisiana 

Waiting week waived.

 

Work search requirements have been waived. 

  • Workers that have been laid off or had hours reduced due to a buisness shutting down temporarily or otherwise. 

4/13/20 

04/13/20 No information available

Has a workshare program.  

 

 

Maine 

Waiting week waived.

 

Work search requirements are waived provided the worker has “reasonable expectation" of continued employment with the current employer. 

  • Quarantined people.
  • Those who have to stay home and provide dependent care. 

 4/16/20

05/01/20 No information available

Has a workshare program.   

 

 

Maryland  

Does not have a waiting week.

 

  • Quarantined people.
  • Those who have to stay home and provide dependent care. 
  • Those who lost their jobs due to its business shutting own operations.
  • Thoes who left work due to a risk of exposure of infection to COVID-19. 

 4/17/20

04/24/20 04/24/20

Has a workshare program.  

 

  • Applicants are only allowed to file on certain days based on the first letter of thier last name. 

Massachusetts 

Waiting week waived.

 

Work search requirements are waived provided the worker has “reasonable expectation" of continued employment with the current employer.

 

  • Quarantined people.
  • Those who have to stay home and provide dependent care. 
  • Thoes who left work due to a risk of exposure of infection to COVID-19.

 4/09/20

04/20/20 No information available

Has a workshare program.  

 

 

Michigan 

Does not have a waiting week.

Work search requirements have been waived. 

  • Quarantined people.
  • Those who have to stay home and provide dependent care. 
  • Those who lost their jobs due to its business shutting own operations.
  • Thoes who left work due to a risk of exposure of infection to COVID-19.
  • Thoes who are self-employeed and have lost income due to COVID-19.  

4/10/20 

04/20/20 No information available

Has a workshare program.   

 

  • Applicants are only allowed to file on certain days based on the first letter of thier last name. 

Minnesota 

Waiting week waived.

 

 

 

4/08/20 

04/24/20 04/15/20

Has a workshare program.   

 

 

Mississippi 

Waiting week waived.

 

Work search requirements have been waived.
  • Quarantined people.
  • Those who have to stay home and provide dependent care. 
  • Those who lost their jobs due to its business shutting own operations. 

04/10/20 

04/21/20 No information available

 

 

Missouri 

Waiting week waived.

 

Work search requirements are not required when there is a recall date within eight weeks of the temporary lay-off.

  • Quarantined people.
  • Those who have to stay home and provide dependent care. 
  • Those who lost their jobs due to its business shutting own operations.
  • Thoes who left work due to a risk of exposure of infection to COVID-19.

 

 04/12/20  

04/20/20 04/26/20

Has a workshare program.  

 

 

Montana 

Waiting week waived. 

Work search requirements are waived provided the worker has “reasonable expectation" of continued employment with the current employer.
  • Quarantined people.
  • Those who have to stay home and provide dependent care. 
  • Those who are temporarily laid off by the employer.
  • Thoes who are directed by their employer to leave work or not report to work due to COVID-19. 

 04/13/20

05/01/20 No information available

 

 

Nebraska 

Waiting week is waived.

Work search requirements have been waived. 

  • Commissioner of Labor directed to treat workers in an unpaid status for any reason as a result of COVID19 exposure or illness as being on a temporary layoff and attached to their employment. 
04/12/20 04/27/20 No information available

Has a workshare program.  

 

 

Nevada 

Waiting week waived. 

 

Work search requirements have been waived.

  • Individuals who are out of work and no longer receiving pay from their employer as a consequence of COVID-19.

04/12/20 

No information available No information available

 

 

New Hampshire 

Waiting week Waived.

 

  • Quarantined people.
  • Those who have to stay home and provide dependent care. 
  • Those who lost their jobs due to its business shutting own operations.
  • Thoes who left work due to a risk of exposure of infection to COVID-19.
  • Thoes who are self employed.  

04/16/20 

No information available No information available

Has a workshare program.    

 

  • Applicants are assigned specific time blocks based on the first letter of thier last name. 

New Jersey 

Does not have a waiting week.

 

  • Those who lost their jobs due to its business shutting own operations.
  • Thoes who have less hours available due to business slow down or lack of demand.

04/14/20 

04/14/20 No information available

Has a workshare program.    

 

  • Applicants are assigned specific time blocks based on the last four digits of thier SSN. 

 

New Mexico 

 

Waiving the work search requirements for up to four weeks. 

  • Quarantined people.
  • Those who have to stay home and provide dependent care. 
  • Those who lost their jobs due to its business shutting own operations.
  • Thoes who have less hours available due to business slow down or lack of demand.

 04/20/20

04/26/20 04/26/20

 

 

New York 

Waiting week waived.

 

 

 04/06/20

04/08/20 04/12/20

Has a workshare program.  

 

  • Applicants are only allowed to file on certain days based on the first letter of thier last name. 

North Carolina 

Waiting week waived.

 

Work search is waived for COVID-19 related claims. 

  • Quarantined people.
  • Those who lost their jobs due to its business shutting own operations.
  • Thoes who have less hours available due to business slow down or lack of demand.

04/17/20 

04/24/20 No information available

 

 

North Dakota 

 

Work search is waived for COVID-19 related claims.  

 

04/14/20 

04/04/20 04/04/20

 

 

Ohio 

Waiting week waived.

Work search waived for workers isolated or quarantined. 

  • Quarantined people.
  • Those who lost their jobs due to its business shutting own operations.
  • Thoes who have less hours available due to business slow down or lack of demand.

 04/24/20

04/24/20 No information available

Has a workshare program.  

 

 

Oklahoma 

Waiting week waived.

 

Work search may be waived depending on the circumstances. 
  • Eligible for employees who have experienced a loss of work due to no fault of their own when suitable work is not available.

 04/07/20

No information available No information available

Has a workshare program.  

 

 

Oregon 

 

Work search requirements have been waived. 

  • Quarantined people.
  • Those who have to stay home and provide dependent care. 
  • Those who lost their jobs due to its business shutting own operations.
  • Thoes who have less hours available due to business slow down or lack of demand.

04/10/20 

04/28/20 No information available

Has a workshare program.  

 

 

Pennsylvania 

Waiting week waived.

Work search requirements have been waived. 

 

  • Quarantined people.
  • Those who have to stay home and provide dependent care. 
  • Those who lost their jobs due to its business shutting own operations.
  • Thoes who have less hours available due to business slow down or lack of demand. 

04/10/20  

Early May No information available

Has a workshare program.  .  

 

 

Rhode Island 

Waiting week waived.

 

  • Quarantined people.
  • Those who have to stay home and provide dependent care. 
  • Those who lost their jobs due to its business shutting own operations.
  • Thoes who have less hours available due to business slow down or lack of demand.

 04/08/20

04/08/20 No information available

Has a workshare program.  

 

 

South Carolina 

Waiting week waived.

Work search requirements have been waived.
  • Covers COVID-related unemployment and hour reductions. 

 

 04/12/20

04/25/20 No information available

 

 

South Dakota 

 

Work search requirements have been waived.

 

  • Quarantined people.
  • Those who lost their jobs due to its business shutting own operations.
  • Workers with hour reductions related to COVID-19 may be eligible for partial benefits.

 04/08/20

04/17/20 No information available

 

 

Tennessee 

Waiting week waived.

 

Work search requirements have been waived. 

 

 

 04/14/20

04/22/20 No information available

 

 

Texas 

Waiting week waived.

Work search requirements have been waived. 

  • Quarantined people.
  • Those who lost their jobs due to its business shutting own operations.
  • Thoes who have less hours available due to business slow down or lack of demand.

 04/20/20

04/14/20 No information available

Has a workshare program.  

 

 

Utah 

 

 

  • Quarantined people.
  • Those who lost their jobs due to its business shutting own operations.
  • Thoes who have less hours available due to business slow down or lack of demand.

 

 04/08/20

04/20/20 No information available

 

 

Vermont 

Does not have a waiting week. Work search requirements have been waived.
  • Quarantined people. 
  • Those who lost their jobs due to its business shutting own operations.
  • Thoes who have less hours available due to business slow down or lack of demand.

04/05/20 

04/22/20 No information available Has a workshare program.  

 

Virginia 

Waiting week waived.

Work search requirements have been waived. 

 

04/10/20 

04/19/20 No information available

 

 

Washington 

Waiting week waived. 

Work search may be waived depending on the circumstances. 

 

  • Quarantined people.
  • Those who lost their jobs due to its business shutting own operations.
  • Thoes who have less hours available due to business slow down or lack of demand.

 04/18/20

04/18/20 04/18/20

Has a workshare program.   

 

 

West Virginia 

Waiting week waived.  

Work search requirements have been waived.

 

  • Quarantined people
  • Those who lost their jobs due to its business shutting own operations.
  • Thoes who have less hours available due to business slow down or lack of demand.

 04/07/20

No information available No information available

 

 

Wisconsin 

Awaiting legislature approval  

Work search requirements have been waived.
  • Quarantined people.

04/26/20 

04/21/20 No information available

Has a workshare program.  

 

 

Wyoming 

Does not have a waiting week.

Work search may be waived depending on the circumstances.  

 

04/17/20 

05/01/20 No information available