Here’s Everything You Need to Know About Claiming Unemployment

Blog | March 31st, 2020

With so many people out of work amidst the current COVID-19 crisis, families are struggling to make ends meet. Luckily, there are options for people who are out of work due to the virus. If you are one of the millions of people stuck at home, you need to know how you can get these benefits. 

Currently, the criteria for receiving unemployment is different. Typically, self-employed individuals and contract workers do not qualify. However, that is not the case at this time. So, take a look at this comprehensive guide on claiming unemployment to find out everything you need to know. 

Ways Unemployment is Different Now

The recent Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act assists many people that traditional unemployment does not cover. Some of the people who might receive benefits under the bill are: 

  • Gig workers
  • Self-employed workers
  • Contract workers
  • Employees who did not previously qualify for benefits 
  • People who have reduced hours or pay 
  • Some business owners
  • People who are sick
  • People caring for a sick relative
  • Someone who is in quarantine 

Traditionally, the Workforce Commission requires anyone receiving benefits to actively search for work and report work search history weekly or bi-weekly to continue receiving payments. However, during these uncertain times, that is not a requirement. 

Related: Five Free Government Programs You Should Know About

Have All of the Necessary Information Together

There is some information you will need before you file for benefits. If you leave information off your application or provide incorrect details, it will take longer to receive an approval. So, it is best to start the process with everything you need. 

Below is the information most states require when you apply for unemployment: 

  • The last date you worked
  • Your employer’s information, including address, supervisor, and phone number
  • A letter from your employer explaining why you are not working
  • Paycheck stubs or proof of your income
  • Your personal information, including your social security number, address, and date of birth
  • Any additional information required by your state

Find Your State Unemployment Site

Currently, local unemployment offices in most areas are not open. So, you need to navigate to the unemployment website for your state instead of visiting in person. 

Answer All of the Questions Honestly

You must answer all of the questions honestly. If you lie on the application, you can lose future benefits, be charged back fro benefits you receive, and potentially face prosecution for fraud. So, it is best to answer all questions to the best of your knowledge. 

Save All Documents Relating to Your Application

When you apply for benefits, you need to save all of your backup documents and information, so you have it if the Workforce Commission needs to verify anything. If you are still working, but you have a reduction of hours or pay, you need to carefully document the hours you work and how much you receive. 

You have to report all hours and income to the Workforce Commission while you are on unemployment. Still, it does not necessarily mean that you will lose benefits. However, if they find that you work but are not reporting correctly, you might run into trouble. 

It Does Not Hurt to Try 

As long as you answer all of the questions on your application honestly, it does not hurt you to apply for benefits. If you are unable to pay your bills due to a loss of employment, you should apply for unemployment to help your family during difficult times. 

If You Can’t Access Your State’s Site Try Late at Night

With record numbers applying for benefits right now, you might not be able to access the site to complete your application. Several state’s sites have crashed, and others are running slow. So, if you can, apply at night or very early in the morning when not as many users are online.

It will not only ensure you do not run into any issues with the site crashing in the middle of your application, but it will reduce your stress waiting for the website to respond. Also, you should save your app frequently, so you do not lose your progress. 

Respond to All Correspondences You Receive 

Due to the number of people currently applying for benefits, the process is likely to take longer than usual. Be patient and make sure you respond when the Workforce Commission reaches out to you. If they are unable to reach you, you will have to wait longer for benefits. 

Most state websites allow you to check the status of your application online. While it is not useful to check daily and it might slow down the site for others who need to apply, you should check every few days to see where things stand with your a

You Need to Report Unemployment Income on Your Tax Return

The IRS does consider unemployment benefits as income. You will receive a document called a 1099-G from the Workforce Commission. You will use that to report the income on your tax return at the end of the year. 

Related: 7 Easy Ways to Invest Your Tax Refund!

Apply for Benefits Today!

There are millions of people filing unemployment right now. Given the number of people applying, it is crucial that you submit your application as soon as possible. It can take as long as four weeks to receive approval for your benefits. So, it is best to start the process right away to reduce the risk of additional financial issues.